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A TALK AT HOME
OFF TO THE FAIR
THE COOL OF THE EVENING
THE EGG SAC
THE HOUR OF TRIUMPH
1 5 5
A WARM WIND
W HERE’S Papa going with that ax?”
said Fern to her mother as they
were setting the table for breakfast.
“Out to the hoghouse,” replied
Mrs. Arable. “Some pigs were born last night.”
“I don’t see why he needs an ax,” continued Fern,
who was only eight.
“Well,” said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt.
It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to
anything. So your father has decided to do away with
“Do away with it?” shrieked Fern. “You mean kill
it? Just because it’s smaller than the others?”
Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table.
“Don’t yell, Fern!” she said. “Your father is right. The
pig would probably die anyway.”
Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors.
The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime.
Fern’s sneakers were sopping by the time she caught
up with her father.
“Please don’t kill it!” she sobbed. “It’s unfair.”
Mr. Arable stopped walking.
“Fern,” he said gently, “you will have to learn to
“Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of
life and death, and you talk about controlling myself.”
Before Breakfast 3
Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax
and tried to pull it out of her father’s hand.
“Fern,” said Mr. Arable, “I know more about raising
a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble.
Now run along!”
“But it’s unfair,” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help
being born small, could it? If 7 had been very small at
birth, would you have killed me ?”
Mr. Arable smiled. “Certainly not,” he said, looking
down at his daughter with love. “But this is different.
A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another.”
“I see no difference,” replied Fern, still hanging on
to the ax. “This is the most terrible case of injustice I
ever heard of.”
A queer look came over John Arable’s face. He
seemed almost ready to cry himself.
“AH right,” he said. “You go back to the house and
I will bring the runt when I come in. I’ll let you start
it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you’ll see what trouble
a pig can be.”
When Mr. Arable returned to the house half an
hour later, he carried a carton under his arm. Fern was
upstairs changing her sneakers. The kitchen table was
set for breakfast, and the room smelled of coffee, bacon,
damp plaster, and wood smoke from the stove.
“Put it on her chair!” said Mrs. Arable. Mr. Arable
set the carton down at Fern’s place. Then he walked
4 Charlotte’s Web
to the sink and washed his hands and dried them on the
Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were
red from crying. As she approached her chair, the
carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fern
looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the car-
ton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newborn
pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone
through its ears, turning them pink.
“He’s yours,” said Mr. Arable. “Saved from an un-
timely death. And may the good Lord forgive me for
Fern couldn’t take her eyes off the tiny pig. “Oh,”
she whispered. “Oh, look at him! He’s absolutely per-
She closed the carton carefully. First she kissed her
father, then she kissed her mother. Then she opened
the lid again, lifted the pig out, and held it against
her cheek. At this moment her brother Avery came
into the room. Avery was ten. He was heavily armed
— an air rifle in one hand, a wooden dagger in the
“What’s that?” he demanded. “What’s Fern got?”
“She’s got a guest for breakfast,” said Mrs. Arable.
“Wash your hands and face, Avery!”
“Let’s see it!” said Avery, setting his gun down.
“You call that miserable thing a pig? That’s a fine
specimen of a pig — it’s no bigger than a white rat.”
“Wash up and eat your breakfast, Avery!” said his
mother. “The school bus will be along in half an hour.”
“Can I have a pig, too. Pop?” asked Avery.
“No, I only distribute pigs to early risers,” said Mr.
Arable. “Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the
world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A
small one, to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just
shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed
promptly. Let’s eat!”
But Fern couldn’t eat until her pig had had a drink
of milk. Mrs. Arable found a baby’s nursing bottle and
a rubber nipple. She poured warm milk into the bottle,
fitted the nipple over the top, and handed it to Fern.
“Give him his breakfast!” she said.
A minute later, Fern was seated on the floor in the
comer of the kitchen with her infant between her
Before Breakfast 7
knees, teaching it to suck from the bottle. The pig,
although tiny, had a good appetite and caught on
The school bus honked from the road.
“Run!” commanded Mrs. Arable, taking the pig
from Fern and slipping a doughnut into her hand.
Avery grabbed his gun and another doughnut.
The children ran out to the road and climbed into
the bus. Fern took no notice of the others in the bus.
She just sat and stared out of the window, thinking
what a blissful world it was and how lucky she was to
have entire charge of a pig. By the time the bus reached
school, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most
beautiful name she could think of.
“Its name is Wilbur,” she whispered to herself.
She was still thinking about the pig when the teacher
said: “Fern, what is the capital of Pennsylvania?”
“Wilbur,” replied Fern, dreamily. The pupils gig-
gled. Fern blushed.
F ERN loved Wilbur more than anything. She
loved to stroke him, to feed him, to put him to
bed. Every morning, as soon as she got up, she
warmed his milk, tied his bib on, and held the
bottle for him. Every afternoon, when the school bus
stopped in front of her house, she jumped out and ran
to the kitchen to fix another bottle for him. She fed
him again at suppertime, and again just before going to
bed. Mrs. Arable gave him a feeding around noontime
each day, when Fern was away in school. Wilbur
loved his milk, and he was never happier than when
Fern was warming up a bottle for him. He would
stand and gaze up at her with adoring eyes.
For the first few days of his life, Wilbur was allowed
to live in a box near the stove in the kitchen. Then,
when Mrs. Arable complained, he was moved to a big-
ger box in the woodshed. At two weeks of age, he was
moved outdoors. It was apple-blossom time, and the
days were getting warmer. Mr. Arable fixed a small
yard specially for Wilbur under an apple tree, and
gave him a large wooden box full of straw, with a
doorway cut in it so he could walk in and out as he
“Won’t he be cold at night?” asked Fern.
“No,” said her father. “You watch and see what he
Carrying a bottle of milk, Fern sat down under the
apple tree inside the yard. Wilbur ran to her and she
held the bottle for him while he sucked. When he had
finished the last drop, he grunted and walked sleepily
into the box. Fern peered through the door. Wilbur
was poking the straw with his snout. In a short time
he had dug a tunnel in the straw. He crawled into the
tunnel and disappeared from sight, completely cov-
ered with straw. Fern was enchanted. It relieved her
mind to know that her baby would sleep covered up,
and would stay warm.
io Charlotte’s Web
Every morning after breakfast, Wilbur walked out
to the road with Fern and waited with her till the bus
came. She would wave good-bye to him, and he would
stand and watch the bus until it vanished around a
turn. While Fern was in school, Wilbur was shut up
inside his yard. But as soon as she got home in the
afternoon, she would take him out and he would
follow her around the place. If she went into the
house, Wilbur went, too. If she went upstairs, Wilbur
would wait at the bottom step until she came down
again. If she took her doll for a walk in the doll car-
riage, Wilbur followed along. Sometimes, on these
journeys, Wilbur would get tired, and Fern would pick
him up and put him in the carriage alongside the doll.
He liked this. And if he was very tired, he would close
his eyes and go to sleep under the doll’s blanket. He
looked cute when his eyes were closed, because his
lashes were so long. The doll would close her eyes, too,
and Fern would wheel the carriage very slowly and
smoothly so as not to wake her infants.
One warm afternoon. Fern and Avery put on bath-
ing suits and went down to the brook for a swim.
Wilbur tagged along at Fern’s heels. When she waded
into the brook, Wilbur waded in with her. He found
the water quite cold — too cold for his liking. So while
the children swam and played and splashed water at
each other, Wilbur amused himself in the mud along
the edge of the brook, where it was warm and moist
and delightfully sticky and oozy.
Every day was a happy day, and every night was
Wilbur was what farmers call a spring pig, which
simply means that he was born in springtime. When he
12 Charlotte's Web
was five weeks old, Mr. Arable said he was now big
enough to sell, and would have to be sold. Fern broke
down and wept. But her father was firm about it. Wil-
bur’s appetite had increased; he was beginning to eat
scraps of food in addition to milk. Mr. Arable was not
willing to provide for him any longer. He had already
sold Wilbur’s ten brothers and sisters.
“He’s got to go, Fern,” he said. “You have had your
fun raising a baby pig, but Wilbur is not a baby any
longer and he has got to be sold.”
“Call up the Zuckermans,” suggested Mrs. Arable
to Fern. “Your Uncle Homer sometimes raises a pig.
And if Wilbur goes there to live, you can walk down
the road and visit him as often as you like.”
“How much money should I ask for him?” Fern
wanted to know.
“Well,” said her father, “he’s a runt. Tell your
Uncle Homer you’ve got a pig you’ll sell for six
dollars, and see what he says.”
It was soon arranged. Fern phoned and got her
Aunt Edith, and her Aunt Edith hollered for Uncle
Homer, and Uncle Homer came in from the barn and
talked to Fern. When he heard that the price was only
six dollars, he said he would buy the pig. Next day
Wilbur was taken from his home under the apple tree
and went to live in a manure pile in the cellar of Zuck-
T HE BARN was very large. It was very old.
It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure.
It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses
and the wonderful sweet breath of patient
cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell — as though
nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It
smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle
grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And
whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn
would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for
there was always hay in the great loft up overhead.
And there was always hay being pitched down to the
cows and the horses and the sheep.
The barn was pleasantly warm in winter when the
animals spent most of their time indoors, and it was
pleasantly cool in summer when the big doors stood
wide open to the breeze. The barn had stalls on the
main floor for the work horses, tie-ups on the main
floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the
sheep, a pigpen down below for Wilbur, and it was
14 Charlotte's Web
full of all sorts of things that you find in bams: ladders,
grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes,
lawn mowers, snow shovels, ax handles, milk pails,
water buckets, empty grain sacks, and rust)’ rat traps.
It was the kind of barn that swallows like to build their
nests in. It was the kind of barn that children like to
play in. And the whole thing was owned by Fern’s
uncle, Air. Homer L. Zuckerman.
Wilbur’s new home was in the lower part of the
bam, directly underneath the cows. Mr. Zuckerman
knew that a manure pile is a good place to keep a young
pig. Pigs need warmth, and it was warm and com-
fortable down there in the barn cellar on the south
Fern came almost every day to visit him. She found
Escape i 5
an old milking stool that had been discarded, and she
placed the stool in the sheepfold next to Wilbur’s pen.
Here she sat quietly during the long afternoons,
t hinkin g and listening and watching Wilbur. The
sheep soon got to know her and trust her. So did the
geese, who lived with the sheep. All the animals trusted
her, she was so quiet and friendly. Mr. Zuckerman did
not allow her to take Wilbur out, and he did not allow
1 6 Charlotte's Web
her to get into the pigpen. But he told Fern that she
could sit on the stool and watch Wilbur as long as she
wanted to. It made her happy just to be near the pig,
and it made Wilbur happy to know that she was sitting
there, right outside his pen. But he never had any fun —
no walks, no rides, no swims.
One afternoon in June, when Wilbur was almost
two months old, he wandered out into his small yard
outside the barn. Fern had not arrived for her usual
visit. Wilbur stood in the sun feeling lonely and bored.
“There’s never anything to do around here,” he
thought. He walked slowly to his food trough and
sniffed to see if anything had been overlooked at
lunch. He found a small strip of potato skin and ate it.
His back itched, so he leaned against the fence and
rubbed against the boards. When he tired of this, he
walked indoors, climbed to the top of the manure pile,
and sat down. He didn’t feel like going to sleep, he
didn’t feel like digging, he was tired of standing still,
tired of lying down. “I’m less than two months old and
I’m tired of living,” he said. He walked out to the yard
“When I’m out here,” he said, “there’s no place to
go but in. When I’m indoors, there’s no place to go but
out in the yard.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, my friend, my friend,”
said a voice.
Escape i 7
Wilbur looked through the fence and saw the goose
“You don’t have to stay in that dirty-little dirty-
little dirty-little yard,” said the goose, who talked
rather fast. “One of the boards is loose. Push on it,
push-push-push on it, and come on out!”
“What?” said Wilbur. “Say it slower!”
“At-at-at, at the risk of repeating myself,” said the
goose, “I suggest that you come on out. It’s wonderful
“Did you say a board was loose?”
“That I did, that I did,” said the goose.
Wilbur walked up to the fence and saw that the
goose was right — one board was loose. He put his head
down, shut his eyes, and pushed. The board gave way.
In a minute he had squeezed through the fence and
was standing in the long grass outside his yard. The
“How does it feel to be free?” she asked.
“I like it,” said Wilbur. “That is, I guess I like it.”
Actually, Wilbur felt queer to be outside his fence,
with nothing between him and the big world.
“Where do you think I’d better go?”
“Anywhere you like, anywhere you like,” said the
goose. “Go down through the orchard, root up the
sod! Go down through the garden, dig up the radishes!
Root up everything! Eat grass! Look for corn! Look
1 8 Charlotte’ s W eb
for oats! Run all over! Skip and dance, jump and
prance! Go down through the orchard and stroll in
the woods! The world is a wonderful place when
“I can see that,” replied Wilbur. He gave a jump in
the air, twirled, ran a few steps, stopped, looked all
around, sniffed the smells of afternoon, and then set
off walking down through the orchard. Pausing in the
shade of an apple tree, he put his strong snout into the
ground and began pushing, digging, and rooting. He
felt very happy. He had plowed up quite a piece of
ground before anyone noticed him. Mrs. Zuckerman
was the first to see him. She saw him from the kitchen
window, and she immediately shouted for the men.
“Ho -mer\” she cried. “Pig’s out! Lurvy! Pig’s out!
Homer! Lurvy! Pig’s out. He’s down there under that
“Now the trouble starts,” thought Wilbur. “Now
I’ll catch it.”
The goose heard the racket and she, too, started
hollering. “Run-run-run downhill, make for the
woods, the woods!” she shouted to Wilbur. “They’ll
never-never-never catch you in the woods.”
The cocker spaniel heard the commotion and he ran
out from the barn to join the chase. Mr. Zuckerman
heard, and he came out of the machine shed where he
was mending a tool. Lurvy, the hired man, heard the
Escape 1 9
noise and came up from the asparagus patch where he
was pulling weeds. Everybody walked toward Wilbur
and Wilbur didn’t know what to do. The woods seemed
a long way off, and anyway, he had never been down
there in the woods and wasn’t sure he would like it.
“Get around behind him, Lurvy,” said Mr. Zucker-
man, “and drive him toward the barn! And take it
easy — don’t rush him! I’ll go and get a bucket of slops.”
The news of Wilbur’s escape spread rapidly among
the animals on the place. Whenever any creature broke
loose on Zuckerman’s farm, the event was of great
interest to the others. The goose shouted to the nearest
cow that Wilbur was free, and soon all the cows knew.
Then one of the cows told one of the sheep, and soon
all the sheep knew. The lambs learned about it from
their mothers. The horses, in their stalls in the barn,
pricked up their ears when they heard the goose hol-
lering; and soon the horses had caught on to what was
happening. “Wilbur’s out,” they said. Every animal
stirred and lifted its head and became excited to know
that one of his friends had got free and was no longer
penned up or tied fast.
Wilbur didn’t know what to do or which way to
run. It seemed as though everybody was after him. “If
this is what it’s like to be free,” he thought, “I believe
I’d rather be penned up in my own yard.”
The cocker spaniel was sneaking up on him from one
side, Lurvy the hired man was sneaking up on him
from the other side. Mrs. Zuckerman stood ready to
head him off if he started for the garden, and now Mr.
Zuckerman was coming down toward him carrying a
pail. “This is really awful,” thought Wilbur. “Why
doesn’t Fern come?” He began to cry.
The goose took command and began to give orders.
“Don’t just stand there, Wilbur! Dodge about,
dodge about!” cried the goose. “Skip around, run
toward me, slip in and out, in and out, in and out!
Make for the woods! Twist and turn!”
The cocker spaniel sprang for Wilbur’s hind leg.
Wilbur jumped and ran. Lurvy reached out and
grabbed. Mrs. Zuckerman screamed at Lurvy. The
goose cheered for Wilbur. Wilbur dodged between
Escape 2 1
Lurvy’s legs. Lurvy missed Wilbur and grabbed the
spaniel instead. “Nicely done, nicely done!” cried the
goose. “Try it again, try it again!”
“Run downhill!” suggested the cows.
“Run toward me!” yelled the gander.
“Run uphill! ” cried the sheep.
“Turn and twist!” honked the goose.
“Jump and dance!” said the rooster.
“Look out for Lurvy!” called the cows.
“Look out for Zuckerman! ” yelled the gander.
“Watch out for the dog!” cried the sheep.
“Listen to me, listen to me!” screamed the goose.
Poor Wilbur was dazed and frightened by this hulla-
baloo. He didn’t like being the center of all this fuss.
He tried to follow the instructions his friends were
giving him, but he couldn’t run downhill and uphill
at the same time, and he couldn’t turn and twist when
he was jumping and dancing, and he was crying so
hard he could barely see anything that was happening.
After all, Wilbur was a very young pig — not much
more than a baby, really. He wished Fern were there
to take him in her arms and comfort him. When he
looked up and saw Mr. Zuckerman standing quite close
to him, holding a pail of warm slops, he felt relieved.
He lifted his nose and sniffed. The smell was delicious
— warm milk, potato skins, wheat middlings, Kellogg’s
Corn Flakes, and a popover left from the Zuckermans’
“Come, pig!” said Mr. Zuckerman, tapping the pail.
Wilbur took a step toward the pail.
“No-no-no!” said the goose. “It’s the old pail trick,
Wilbur. Don’t fall for it, don’t fall for it! He’s trying
to lure you back into captivity-ivity. He’s appealing
to your stomach.”
Escape 2 3
Wilbur didn’t care. The food smelled appetizing.
He took another step toward the pail.
“Pig, pig!” said Mr. Zuckerman in a kind voice, and
began walking slowly toward the barnyard, looking all
about him innocently, as if he didn’t know that a little
white pig was following along behind him.
“You’ll be sorry-sorry-sorry,” called the goose.
Wilbur didn’t care. He kept walking toward the
pail of slops.
“You’ll miss your freedom,” honked the goose. “An
hour of freedom is worth a barrel of slops.”
Wilbur didn’t care.
When Mr. Zuckerman reached the pigpen, he
climbed over the fence and poured the slops into the
trough. Then he pulled the loose board away from the
fence, so that there was a wide hole for Wilbur to walk
“Reconsider, reconsider!” cried the goose.
Wilbur paid no attention. He stepped through the
fence into his yard. He walked to the trough and took
a long drink of slops, sucking in the milk hungrily and
chewing the popover. It was good to be home again.
While Wilbur ate, Lurvy fetched a hammer and
some 8-penny nails and nailed the board in place. Then
he and Mr. Zuckerman leaned lazily on the fence and
Mr. Zuckerman scratched Wilbur’s back with a stick.
“He’s quite a pig,” said Lurvy.
24 Charlotte’s Web
“Yes, he’ll make a good pig,” said Mr. Zuckerman.
Wilbur heard the words of praise. He felt the warm
milk inside his stomach. He felt the pleasant rubbing
of the stick along his itchy back. He felt peaceful and
happy and sleepy. This had been a tiring afternoon. It
was still only about four o’clock but Wilbur was ready
“I’m really too young to go out into the world
alone,” he thought as he lay down.
T HE NEXT day was rainy and dark. Rain
fell on the roof of the barn and dripped
steadily from the eaves. Rain fell in the
barnyard and ran in crooked courses down
into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew. Rain
spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman’s kitchen windows
and came gushing out of the downspouts. Rain fell on
the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow.
When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they
walked slowly up the lane and into the fold.
Rain upset Wilbur’s plans. Wilbur had planned to
go out, this day, and dig a new hole in his yard. He had
other plans, too. His plans for the day went something
Breakfast at six-thirty. Skim milk, crusts, middlings,
bits of doughnuts, wheat cakes with drops of maple
syrup sticking to them, potato skins, leftover custard
pudding with raisins, and bits of Shredded Wheat.
Breakfast would be finished at seven.
From seven to eight, Wilbur planned to have a talk
with Templeton, the rat that lived under his trough.
Talking with Templeton was not the most interesting
occupation in the world but it was better than nothing.
From eight to nine, Wilbur planned to take a nap
outdoors in the sun.
From nine to eleven he planned to dig a hole, or
trench, and possibly find something good to eat buried
in the dirt.
From eleven to twelve he planned to stand still and
watch flies on the boards, watch bees in the clover, and
watch swallows in the air.
Twelve o’clock — lunchtime. Middlings, warm
water, apple parings, meat gravy, carrot scrapings, meat
scraps, stale hominy, and the wrapper off a package of
cheese. Lunch would be over at one.
From one to two, Wilbur planned to sleep.
From two to three, he planned to scratch itchy places
by rubbing against the fence.
From three to four, he planned to stand perfectly
still and think of what it was like to be alive, and to
wait for Fern.
At four would come supper. Skim milk, provender,
leftover sandwich from Lurvy’s lunchbox, prune skins,
a morsel of this, a bit of that, fried potatoes, marmalade
drippings, a little more of this, a little more of that, a
piece of baked apple, a scrap of upsidedown cake.
Wilbur had gone to sleep thinking about these plans.
He awoke at six and saw the rain, and it seemed as
though he couldn’t bear it.
“I get everything all beautifully planned out and it
has to go and rain,” he said.
For a while he stood gloomily indoors. Then he
walked to the door and looked out. Drops of rain struck
his face. His yard was cold and wet. His trough had an
inch of rainwater in it. Templeton was nowhere to be
“Are you out there, Templeton?” called Wilbur.
There was no answer. Suddenly Wilbur felt lonely and
“One day just like another,” he groaned. “I’m very
young, I have no real friend here in the barn, it’s going
to rain all morning and all afternoon, and Fern won’t
come in such bad weather. Oh, honestly !” And Wil-
bur was crying again, for the second time in two days.
At six-thirty Wilbur heard the banging of a pail.
Lurvy was standing outside in the rain, stirring up
“C’mon, pig!” said Lurvy.
Wilbur did not budge. Lurvy dumped the slops,
scraped the pail, and walked away. He noticed that
something was wrong with the pig.
Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love. He
wanted a friend — someone who would play with
him. He mentioned this to the goose, who was sit-
ting quietly in a corner of the sheepfold.
“Will you come over and play with me?” he asked.
“Sorry, sonny, sorry,” said the goose. “I’m sitting-
sitting on my eggs. Eight of them. Got to keep them
toasty-oasty-oasty warm. I have to stay right here, I’m
no flibberty-ibberty-gibbet. I do not play when there
are eggs to hatch. I’m expecting goslings.”
“Well, I didn’t think you were expecting wood-
peckers,” said Wilbur, bitterly.
Wilbur next tried one of the lambs.
“Will you please play with me?” he asked.
“Certainly not,” said the lamb. “In the first place, I
cannot get into your pen, as I am not old enough to
jump over the fence. In the second place, I am not in-
terested in pigs. Pigs mean less than nothing to me.”
“What do you mean, less than nothing?” replied
Wilbur. “I don’t think there is any such thing as less
than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of noth-
ingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the
line. How can something be less than nothing? If there
were something that was less than nothing, then noth-
ing would not be nothing, it would be something —
even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But
if nothing is nothing , then nothing has nothing that is
less than it is.”
“Oh, be quiet!” said the lamb. “Go play by yourself!
I don’t play with pigs.”
Sadly, Wilbur lay down and listened to the rain.
Soon he saw the rat climbing down a slanting board
that he used as a stairway.
“Will you play with me, Templeton?” asked Wil-
“Play?” said Templeton, twirling his whiskers.
“Play? I hardly know the meaning of the word.”
“Well,” said Wilbur, “it means to have fun, to frolic,
to run and skip and make merry.”
“I never do those things if I can avoid them,” replied
the rat, sourly. “I prefer to spend my time eating, gnaw-
ing, spying, and hiding. I am a glutton but not a merry-
30 Charlotte’s Web
maker. Right now I am on my way to your trough to
eat your breakfast, since you haven’t got sense enough
to eat it yourself.” And Templeton, the rat, crept
stealthily along the wall and disappeared into a private
tunnel that he had dug between the door and the trough
in Wilbur’s yard. Templeton was a crafty rat, and he
had things pretty much his own way. The tunnel was
an example of his skill and cunning. The tunnel en-
abled him to get from the barn to his hiding place under
the pig trough without coming out into the open. He
had tunnels and runways all over Mr. Zuckerman’s
farm and could get from one place to another without
being seen. Usually he slept during the daytime and was
abroad only after dark.
Wilbur watched him disappear into his tunnel. In a
moment he saw the rat’s sharp nose poke out from un-
derneath the wooden trough. Cautiously Templeton
pulled himself up over the edge of the trough. This was
almost more than Wilbur could stand: on this dreary,
rainy day to see his breakfast being eaten by somebody
else. He knew Templeton was getting soaked, out there
in the pouring rain, but even that didn’t comfort him.
Friendless, dejected, and hungry, he threw himself
down in the manure and sobbed.
Late that afternoon, Lurvy went to Mr. Zuckerman.
“I think there’s something wrong with that pig of
yours. He hasn’t touched his food.”
Loneliness 3 1
“Give him two spoonfuls of sulphur and a little mo-
lasses,” said Mr. Zuckerman.
Wilbur couldn’t believe what was happening to him
when Lurvy caught him and forced the medicine down
his throat. This was certainly the worst day of his life.
He didn’t know whether he could endure the awful
loneliness any more.
Darkness settled over everything. Soon there were
only shadows and the noises of the sheep chewing their
cuds, and occasionally the rattle of a cow-chain up
overhead. You can imagine Wilbur’s surprise when,
out of the darkness, came a small voice he had never
heard before. It sounded rather thin, but pleasant. “Do
you want a friend, Wilbur?” it said. “I’ll be a friend to
you. I’ve watched you all day and I like you.”
“But I can’t see you,” said Wilbur, jumping to his
feet. “Where are you? And who are you?”
“I’m right up here,” said the voice. “Go to sleep.
You’ll see me in the morning.”
T HE NIGHT seemed long. Wilbur’s stom-
ach was empty and his mind was full. And
when your stomach is empty and your mind
is full, it’s always hard to sleep.
A dozen times during the night Wilbur woke and
stared into the blackness, listening to the sounds and
trying to figure out what time it was. A barn is never
perfectly quiet. Even at midnight there is usually some-
The first time he woke, he heard Templeton gnaw-
ing a hole in the grain bin. Templeton’s teeth scraped
loudly against the wood and made quite a racket. “That
crazy rat!” thought Wilbur. “Why does he have to
stay up all night, grinding his dashers and destroying
people’s property? Why can’t he go to sleep, like any
The second time Wilbur woke, he heard the goose
turning on her nest and chuckling to herself.
“What time is it?” whispered Wilbur to the goose.
Charlotte 3 3
“Probably-obably-obably about half-past eleven,”
said the goose. “Why aren’t you asleep, Wilbur?”
“Too many things on my mind,” said Wilbur.
“Well,” said the goose, “that’s not my trouble. I have
nothing at all on my mind, but I’ve too many things
under my behind. Have you ever tried to sleep while
sitting on eight eggs?”
“No,” replied Wilbur. “I suppose it is uncomforta-
ble. How long does it take a goose egg to hatch?”
“Approximately-oximately thirty days, all told,” an-
swered the goose. “But I cheat a little. On warm after-
noons, I just pull a little straw over the eggs and go out
for a walk.”
Wilbur yawned and went back to sleep. In his dreams
he heard again the voice saying, “I’ll be a friend to you.
Go to sleep — you’ll see me in the morning.”
About half an hour before dawn, Wilbur woke and
listened. The barn was still dark. The sheep lay motion-
less. Even the goose was quiet. Overhead, on the main
floor, nothing stirred: the cows were resting, the horses
dozed. Templeton had quit work and gone off some-
where on an errand. The only sound was a slight scrap-
ing noise from the rooftop, where the weather-vane
swung back and forth. Wilbur loved the barn when it
was like this — calm and quiet, waiting for light.
“Day is almost here,” he thought.
Through a small window, a faint gleam appeared.
34 Charlotte's Web
One by one the stars went out. Wilbur could see the
goose a few feet away. She sat with head tucked under
a wing. Then he could see the sheep and the lambs. The
“Oh, beautiful day, it is here at last! Today I shall
find my friend.”
Wilbur looked everywhere. He searched his pen
thoroughly. He examined the window ledge, stared up
at the ceiling. But he saw nothing new. Finally he de-
cided he would have to speak up. He hated to break the
lovely stillness of dawn by using his voice, but he
couldn’t think of any other way to locate the mysteri-
ous new friend who was nowhere to be seen. So Wil-
bur cleared his throat.
“Attention, please!” he said in a loud, firm voice.
“Will the party’ who addressed me at bedtime last night
kindly make himself or herself known by giving an
appropriate sign or signal!”
Wilbur paused and listened. All the other animals
lifted their heads and stared at him. Wilbur blushed.
But he was determined to get in touch with his un-
“Attention, please!” he said. “I will repeat the mes-
sage. Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last
night kindly speak up. Please tell me where you are, if
you are my friend!”
The sheep looked at each other in disgust.
Charlotte 3 5
“Stop your nonsense, Wilbur!” said the oldest sheep.
“If you have a new friend here, you are probably dis-
turbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friend-
ship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he
is ready. How can you be sure your friend is an early
“I beg everyone’s pardon,” whispered Wilbur. “I
didn’t mean to be objectionable.”
He lay down meekly in the manure, facing the door.
He did not know it, but his friend was very near. And
the old sheep was right — the friend was still asleep.
Soon Lurvy appeared with slops for breakfast. Wil-
bur rushed out, ate everything in a hurry, and licked
the trough. The sheep moved off down the lane, the
gander waddled along behind them, pulling grass. And
then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning
nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed
him the night before.
“Salutations!” said the voice.
Wilbur jumped to his feet. “Salu-'iu&drt? ” he cried.
“Salutations!” repeated the voice.
“What are they, and where are you?” screamed Wil-
bur. “Please, please , tell me where you are. And what
“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I
say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way of saying hello
or good morning. Actually, it’s a silly expression, and
3 6 Charlotte's Web
I am surprised that I used it at all. As for my where-
abouts, that’s easy. Look up here in the corner of the
doorway! Here I am. Look, I’m waving!”
At last Wilbur saw the creature that had spoken to
him in such a kindly way. Stretched across the upper
part of the doorway was a big spiderweb, and hanging
Charlotte 3 7
from the top of the web, head down, was a large grey
spider. She was about the size of a gumdrop. She had
eight legs, and she was waving one of them at Wilbur
in friendly greeting. “See me now?” she asked.
“Oh, yes indeed,” said Wilbur. “Yes indeed! How
are you? Good morning! Salutations! Very pleased to
meet you. What is your name, please? May I have your
“My name,” said the spider, “is Charlotte.”
“Charlotte what?” asked Wilbur, eagerly.
“Charlotte A. Cavatica. But just call me Charlotte.”
“I think you’re beautiful,” said Wilbur.
“Well, I am pretty,” replied Charlotte. “There’s no
denying that. Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking.
I’m not as flashy as some, but I’ll do. I wish I could see
you, Wilbur, as clearly as you can see me.”
“Why can’t you?” asked the pig. “I’m right here.”
“Yes, but I’m near-sighted,” replied Charlotte. “I’ve
always been dreadfully near-sighted. It’s good in some
ways, not so good in others. Watch me wrap up this
A fly that had been crawling along Wilbur’s trough
had flown up and blundered into the lower part of
Charlotte’s web and was tangled in the sticky threads.
The fly was beating its wings furiously, trying to break
loose and free itself.
“First,” said Charlotte, “I dive at him.” She plunged
38 Charlotte' s W eh
headfirst toward the fly. As she dropped, a tiny silken
thread unwound from her rear end.
“Next, I wrap him up.” She grabbed the fly, threw
a few jets of silk around it, and rolled it over and over,
wrapping it so that it couldn’t move. Wilbur watched
in horror. He could hardly believe what he was seeing,
and although he detested flies, he was sorry for this one.
“There!” said Charlotte. “Now I knock him out, so
he’ll be more comfortable.” She bit the fly. “He can’t
feel a thing now,” she remarked. “He’ll make a perfect
breakfast for me.”
“You mean you eat flies?” gasped Wilbur.
“Certainly. Flies, bugs, grasshoppers, choice beetles,
moths, butterflies, tasty cockroaches, gnats, midges,
daddy longlegs, centipedes, mosquitoes, crickets — any-
thing that is careless enough to get caught in my web.
I have to live, don’t I?”
“Why, yes, of course,” said Wilbur. “Do they taste
“Delicious. Of course, I don’t really eat them. I drink
them — drink their blood. I love blood,” said Charlotte,
and her pleasant, thin voice grew even thinner and more
“Don’t say that!” groaned Wilbur. “Please don’t say
things like that!”
“Why not? It’s true, and I have to say what is true.
I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs,
but it’s the way I’m made. A spider has to pick up a
living somehow or other, and I happen to be a trapper.
I just naturally build a web and trap flies and other in-
sects. My mother was a trapper before me. Her mother
was a trapper before her. All our family have been trap-
pers. Way back for thousands and thousands of years
we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs.”
“It’s a miserable inheritance,” said Wilbur, gloomily.
He was sad because his new friend was so bloodthirsty.
“Yes, it is,” agreed Charlotte. “But I can’t help it. I
don’t know how the first spider in the early days of the
40 Charlotte’s Web
world happened to think up this fancy idea of spinning
a web, but she did, and it was clever of her, too. And
since then, all of us spiders have had to work the same
trick. It’s not a bad pitch, on the whole.”
“It’s cruel,” replied Wilbur, who did not intend to
be argued out of his position.
“Well, you can’t talk” said Charlotte. “ You have
your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me.
I have to get my own living. I live by my wits. I have to
be sharp and clever, lest I go hungry. I have to think
things out, catch what I can, take what comes. And it
just so happens, my friend, that what comes is flies and
insects and bugs. And furthermore,” said Charlotte,
shaking one of her legs, “do you realize that if I didn’t
catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and mul-
tiply and get so numerous that they’d destroy the earth,
wipe out everything?”
“Really?” said Wilbur. “I wouldn’t want that to hap-
pen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all.”
The goose had been listening to this conversation and
chuckling to herself. “There are a lot of things Wilbur
doesn’t know about life,” she thought. “He’s really a
very innocent little pig. He doesn’t even know what’s
going to happen to him around Christmastime; he has
no idea that Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy are plotting to
kill him.” And the goose raised herself a bit and poked
her eggs a little further under her so that they would
receive the full heat from her warm body and soft
Charlotte stood quietly over the fly, preparing to eat
it. Wilbur lay down and closed his eyes. He was tired
from his wakeful night and from the excitement of
meeting someone for the first time. A breeze brought
him the smell of clover — the sweet-smelling world be-
yond his fence. “Well,” he thought, “I’ve got a new
friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Char-
lotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty — every-
thing I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even
though she is pretty and, of course, clever?”
Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears
that often go with finding a new friend. In good time
he was to discover that he was mistaken about Char-
lotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior,
she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and
true to the very end.
T HE EARLY summer days on a farm are the
happiest and fairest days of the year. Lilacs
bloom and make the air sweet, and then fade.
Apple blossoms come with the lilacs, and the
bees visit around among the apple trees. The days grow
warm and soft. School ends, and children have time to
play and to fish for trouts in the brook. Avery often
brought a trout home in his pocket, warm and stiff and
ready to be fried for supper.
Now that school was over, Fern visited the barn al-
most every day, to sit quietly on her stool. The animals
treated her as an equal. The sheep lay calmly at her feet.
Around the first of July, the work horses were
hitched to the mowing machine, and Mr. Zuckerman
climbed into the seat and drove into the field. All morn-
ing you could hear the rattle of the machine as it went
round and round, while the tall grass fell down behind
the cutter bar in long green swathes. Next day, if there
was no thunder shower, all hands would help rake and
pitch and load, and the hay would be hauled to the
Summer Days 43
barn in the high hay wagon, with Fern and Avery rid-
ing at the top of the load. Then the hay would be
hoisted, sweet and warm, into the big loft, until the
whole barn seemed like a wonderful bed of timothy
and clover. It was fine to jump in, and perfect to hide
in. And sometimes Avery would find a little grass snake
in the hay, and would add it to the other things in his
Early summer days are a jubilee time for birds. In
the fields, around the house, in the barn, in the woods,
in the swamp — everywhere love and songs and nests
and eggs. From the edge of the woods, the white-
throated sparrow (which must come all the way from
Boston) calls, “Oh, Peabody, Peabody, Peabody! ” On
an apple bough, the phoebe teeters and wags its tail and
says, “Phoebe, phoe-bee!” The song sparrow, who
knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet,
sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.” If you
enter the barn, the swallows swoop down from their
nests and scold. “Cheeky, cheeky!” they say.
In early summer there are plenty of things for a child
to eat and drink and suck and chew. Dandelion stems
are full of milk, clover heads are loaded with nectar, the
Frigidaire is full of ice-cold drinks. Everywhere you
look is life; even the little ball of spit on the weed stalk,
if you poke it apart, has a green worm inside it. And on
44 Charlotte's Web
the under side of the leaf of the potato vine are the
bright orange eggs of the potato bug.
It was on a day in early summer that the goose eggs
hatched. This was an important event in the barn cellar.
Fern was there, sitting on her stool, when it happened.
Except for the goose herself, Charlotte was the first
to know that the goslings had at last arrived. The goose
knew a day in advance that they were coming — she
could hear their weak voices calling from inside the egg.
She knew that they were in a desperately cramped po-
sition inside the shell and were most anxious to break
through and get out. So she sat quite still, and talked
less than usual.
When the first gosling poked its grey-green head
through the goose’s feathers and looked around, Char-
lotte spied it and made the announcement.
“I am sure,” she said, “that every one of us here will
be gratified to learn that after four weeks of unremit-
ting effort and patience on the part of our friend the
goose, she now has something to show for it. The gos-
lings have arrived. May I offer my sincere congratula-
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said the goose,
nodding and bowing shamelessly.
“Thank you,” said the gander.
“Congratulations!” shouted Wilbur. “How many
goslings are there? I can only see one.”
“There are seven,” said the goose.
“Fine!” said Charlotte. “Seven is a lucky number.”
“Luck had nothing to do with this,” said the goose.
“It was good management and hard work.”
At this point, Templeton showed his nose from his
hiding place under Wilbur’s trough. He glanced at
Fern, then crept cautiously toward the goose, keeping
close to the wall. Everyone watched him, for he was
not well liked, not trusted.
“Look,” he began in his sharp voice, “you say you
have seven goslings. There were eight eggs. What hap-
pened to the other egg? Why didn’t it hatch?”
“It’s a dud, I guess,” said the goose.
“What are you going to do with it?” continued Tem-
pleton, his little round beady eyes fixed on the goose.
“You can have it,” replied the goose. “Roll it away
and add it to that nasty collection of yours.” (Temple-
ton had a habit of picking up unusual objects around
the farm and storing them in his home. He saved every-
“Certainly-ertainly-ertainly,” said the gander. “You
may have the egg. But I’ll tell you one thing, Temple-
ton, if I ever catch you poking-oking-oking your ugly
nose around our goslings, I’ll give you the worst pound-
ing a rat ever took.” And the gander opened his strong
wings and beat the air with them to show his power.
He was strong and brave, but the truth is, both the
goose and the gander were worried about Templeton.
And with good reason. The rat had no morals, no con-
science, no scruples, no consideration, no decency, no
milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher
feeling, no friendliness, no anything. He would kill a
gosling if he could get away with it — the goose knew
that. Everybody knew it.
Summer Days 47
With her broad bill the goose pushed the unhatched
egg out of the nest, and the entire company watched in
disgust while the rat rolled it away. Even Wilbur, who
could eat almost anything, was appalled. “Imagine
wanting a junky old rotten egg!” he muttered.
“A rat is a rat,” said Charlotte. She laughed a tinkling
little laugh. “But, my friends, if that ancient egg ever
breaks, this barn will be untenable.”
“What’s that mean?” asked Wilbur.
“It means nobody will be able to live here on account
of the smell. A rotten egg is a regular stink bomb.”
“I won’t break it,” snarled Templeton. “I know
what I’m doing. I handle stuff like this all the time.”
He disappeared into his tunnel, pushing the goose
egg in front of him. He pushed and nudged till he suc-
ceeded in rolling it to his lair under the trough.
That afternoon, when the wind had died down and
the barnyard was quiet and warm, the grey goose led
her seven goslings off the nest and out into the world.
Mr. Zuckerman spied them when he came with Wil-
“Well, hello there!” he said, smiling all over. “Let’s
see . . . one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven
baby geese. Now isn’t that lovely!”
ILBUR liked Charlotte better and
better each day. Her campaign against
insects seemed sensible and useful.
Hardly anybody around the farm had
a good word to say for a fly. Flies spent their time pes-
tering others. The cows hated them. The horses de-
tested them. The sheep loathed them. Mr. and Mrs.
Zuckerman were always complaining about them, and
putting up screens.
Wilbur admired the way Charlotte managed. He was
particularly glad that she always put her victim to sleep
before eating it.
“It’s real thoughtful of you to do that, Charlotte,”
“Yes,” she replied in her sweet, musical voice, “I al-
ways give them an anaesthetic so they won’t feel pain.
It’s a little service I throw in.”
As the days went by, Wilbur grew and grew. He ate
three big meals a day. He spent long hours lying on his
side, half asleep, dreaming pleasant dreams. He enjoyed
Bad News 49
good health and he gained a lot of weight. One after-
noon, when Fern was sitting on her stool, the oldest
sheep walked into the barn, and stopped to pay a call
“Hello!” she said. “Seems to me you’re putting on
“Yes, I guess I am,” replied Wilbur. “At my age it’s
a good idea to keep gaining.”
“Just the same, I don’t envy you,” said the old sheep.
“You know why they’re fattening you up, don’t you?”
“No,” said Wilbur.
“Well, I don’t like to spread bad news,” said the
sheep, “but they’re fattening you up because they’re
going to kill you, that’s why.”
“They’re going to what}" screamed Wilbur. Fern
grew rigid on her stool.
“Kill you. Turn you into smoked bacon and ham,”
continued the old sheep. “Almost all young pigs get
murdered by the farmer as soon as the real cold weather
sets in. There’s a regular conspiracy around here to kill
you at Christmastime. Everybody is in the plot —
Lurvy, Zuckerman, even John Arable.”
“Mr. Arable?” sobbed Wilbur. “Fern’s father?”
“Certainly. When a pig is to be butchered, every-
body helps. I’m an old sheep and I see the same thing,
same old business, year after year. Arable arrives with
his .22, shoots the . . .”
50 Charlotte's Web
“Stop!” screamed Wilbur. “I don’t want to die!
Save me, somebody! Save me!” Fern was just about to
jump up when a voice was heard.
“Be quiet, Wilbur!” said Charlotte, who had been
listening to this awful conversation.
“I can’t be quiet,” screamed Wilbur, racing up and
down. “I don’t want to be killed. I don’t want to die. Is
it true what the old sheep says, Charlotte? Is it true
they are going to kill me when the cold weather
“Well,” said the spider, plucking thoughtfully at her
web, “the old sheep has been around this barn a long
time. She has seen many a spring pig come and go. If
she says they plan to kill you, I’m sure it’s true. It’s also
the dirtiest trick I ever heard of. What people don’t
Wilbur burst into tears. “I don’t want to die,” he
moaned. “I want to stay alive, right here in my com-
fortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to
breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun.”
“You’re certainly making a beautiful noise,” snapped
the old sheep.
“I don’t want to die!” screamed Wilbur, throwing
himself to the ground.
“You shall not die,” said Charlotte, briskly.
“What? Really?” cried Wilbur, “Who’s going to
“I am,” said Charlotte.
“How?” asked Wilbur.
“That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you,
and I want you to quiet down immediately. You’re car-
rying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can’t
A Talk At Home
O N SUNDAY morning Mr. and Mrs. Arable
k and Fern were sitting at breakfast in the
' kitchen. Avery had finished and was up-
stairs looking for his slingshot.
“Did you know that Uncle Homer’s goslings had
hatched?” asked Fern.
“How many?” asked Mr. Arable.
“Seven,” replied Fern. “There were eight eggs but
one egg didn’t hatch and the goose told Templeton she
didn’t want it any more, so he took it away.”
“The goose did what?” asked Mrs. Arable, gazing at
her daughter with a queer, worried look.
“Told Templeton she didn’t want the egg any more,”
“Who is Templeton?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“He’s the rat,” replied Fern. “None of us like him
“Who’s ‘us’?” asked Mr. Arable.
“Oh, everybody in the barn cellar. Wilbur and the
A Talk at Home 53
sheep and the lambs and the goose and the gander and
the goslings and Charlotte and me.”
“Charlotte?” said Mrs. Arable. “Who’s Charlotte?”
“She’s Wilbur’s best friend. She’s terribly clever.”
“What does she look like?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Well-1,” said Fern, thoughtfully, “she has eight legs.
All spiders do, I guess.”
“Charlotte is a spider?” asked Fern’s mother.
Fern nodded. “A big grey one. She has a web across
the top of Wilbur’s doorway. She catches flies and
sucks their blood. Wilbur adores her.”
“Does he really?” said Mrs. Arable, rather vaguely.
She was staring at Fern with a worried expression on
“Oh, yes, Wilbur adores Charlotte,” said Fern. “Do
you know what Charlotte said when the goslings
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Mr. Arable. “Tell
“Well, when the first gosling stuck its little head out
from under the goose, I was sitting on my stool in the
corner and Charlotte was on her web. She made a
speech. She said: ‘I am sure that every one of us here
in the bam cellar will be gratified to learn that after
four weeks of unremitting effort and patience on the
part of the goose, she now has something to show for
54 Charlotte's Web
it.’ Don’t you think that was a pleasant thing for her to
“Yes, I do,” said Mrs. Arable. “And now, Fern, it’s
time to get ready for Sunday School. And tell Avery
to get ready. And this afternoon you can tell me more
about what goes on in Uncle Homer’s bam. Aren’t you
spending quite a lot of time there? You go there almost
every afternoon, don’t you?”
“I like it there,” replied Fern. She wiped her mouth
and ran upstairs. After she had left the room, Mrs.
Arable spoke in a low voice to her husband.
“I worry about Fern,” she said. “Did you hear the
way she rambled on about the animals, pretending that
Mr. Arable chuckled. “Maybe they do talk,” he said.
“I’ve sometimes wondered. At any rate, don’t worry
about Fern — she’s just got a lively imagination. Kids
think they hear all sorts of things.”
“Just the same, I do worry about her,” replied Mrs.
Arable. “I think I shall ask Dr. Dorian about her the
next time I see him. He loves Fem almost as much as
we do, and I want him to know how queerly she is act-
ing about that pig and everything. I don’t think it’s nor-
mal. You know perfectly well animals don’t talk.”
Mr. Arable grinned. “Maybe our ears aren’t as sharp
as Fern’s,” he said.
Wil burs Boast
A SPIDER’S web is stronger than it looks. Al-
/ 1 though it is made of thin, delicate strands,
the web is not easily broken. However, a
_JL JL web gets tom every day by the insects that
kick around in it, and a spider must rebuild it when it
gets full of holes. Charlotte liked to do her weaving
during the late afternoon, and Fern liked to sit nearby
and watch. One afternoon she heard a most interesting
conversation and witnessed a strange event.
“You have awfully hairy legs, Charlotte,” said Wil-
bur, as the spider busily worked at her task.
“My legs are hairy for a good reason,” replied Char-
lotte. “Furthermore, each leg of mine has seven sec-
tions — the coxa, the trochanter, the femur, the patella,
the tibia, the metatarsus, and the tarsus.”
Wilbur sat bolt upright. “You’re kidding,” he said.
“No, I’m not, either.”
“Say those names again, I didn’t catch them the first
56 Charlotte’s Web
“Coxa, trochanter, femur, patella, tibia, metatarsus,
“Goodness!” said Wilbur, looking down at his own
chubby legs. “I don’t think my legs have seven sec-
“Well,” said Charlotte, “you and I lead different
lives. You don’t have to spin a web. That takes real leg
“I could spin a web if I tried,” said Wilbur, boasting.
“I’ve just never tried.”
“Let’s see you do it,” said Charlotte. Fern chuckled
softly, and her eyes grew wide with love for the pig.
“O.K.,” replied Wilbur. “You coach me and I’ll spin
one. It must be a lot of fun to spin a web. How do I
“Take a deep breath!” said Charlotte, smiling. Wil-
bur breathed deeply. “Now climb to the highest place
you can get to, like this.” Charlotte raced up to the top
of the doorway. Wilbur scrambled to the top of the
“Very good!” said Charlotte. “Now make an attach-
ment with your spinnerets, hurl yourself into space,
and let out a dragline as you go down!”
Wilbur hesitated a moment, then jumped out into
the air. He glanced hastily behind to see if a piece of
rope was following him to check his fall, but nothing
seemed to be happening in his rear, and the next thing
Wilbur's Boast 57
he knew he landed with a thump. “Ooomp!” he
Charlotte laughed so hard her web began to sway.
“What did I do wrong?” asked the pig, when he re-
covered from his bump.
“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “It was a nice try.”
“I think I’ll try again,” said Wilbur, cheerfully. “I
believe what I need is a little piece of string to hold me.”
The pig walked out to his yard. “You there, Temple-
ton?” he called. The rat poked his head out from under
“Got a little piece of string I could borrow?” asked
Wilbur. “I need it to spin a web.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Templeton, who saved string.
“No trouble at all. Anything to oblige.” He crept
down into his hole, pushed the goose egg out of the
way, and returned with an old piece of dirty white
string. Wilbur examined it.
“That’s just the thing,” he said. “Tie one end to my
tail, will you, Templeton?”
Wilbur crouched low, with his thin, curly tail toward
the rat. Templeton seized the string, passed it around
the end of the pig’s tail, and tied two half hitches. Char-
lotte watched in delight. Like Fern, she was truly fond
of Wilbur, whose smelly pen and stale food attracted
the flies that she needed, and she was proud to see that
he was not a quitter and was willing to try again to spin
While the rat and the spider and the little girl
watched, Wilbur climbed again to the top of the ma-
nure pile, full of energy and hope.
“Everybody watch! ” he cried. And summoning all
his strength, he threw himself into the air, headfirst.
The string trailed behind him. But as he had neglected
to fasten the other end to anything, it didn’t really do
any good, and Wilbur landed with a thud, crushed and
hurt. Tears came to his eyes. Templeton grinned. Char-
lotte just sat quietly. After a bit she spoke.
“You can’t spin a web, Wilbur, and I advise you to
put the idea out of your mind. You lack two things
needed for spinning a web.”
“What are they?” asked Wilbur, sadly.
“You lack a set of spinnerets, and you lack know-
how. But cheer up, you don’t need a web. Zuckerman
supplies you with three big meals a day. Why should
you worry about trapping food?”
Wilbur sighed. “You’re ever so much cleverer and
brighter than I am, Charlotte. I guess I was just trying
to show off. Serves me right.”
Templeton untied his string and took it back to his
home. Charlotte returned to her weaving.
“You needn’t feel too badly, Wilbur,” she said. “Not
many creatures can spin webs. Even men aren’t as good
at it as spiders, although they think they’re pretty good,
and they’ll try anything. Did you ever hear of the
Wilbur shook his head. “Is it a web?”
“Sort of,” replied Charlotte. “But do you know how
long it took men to build it? Eight whole years. My
goodness, I would have starved to death waiting that
long. I can make a web in a single evening.”
“What do people catch in the Queensborough Bridge
— bugs?” asked Wilbur.
“No,” said Charlotte. “They don’t catch anything.
They just keep trotting back and forth across the
bridge thinking there is something better on the other
side. If they’d hang head-down at the top of the thing
and wait quietly, maybe something good would come
along. But no — with men it’s rush, rush, rush, every
minute. I’m glad I’m a sedentary spider.”
“What does sedentary mean? ” asked Wilbur.
“Means I sit still a good part of the time and don’t
go wandering all over creation. I know a good thing
when I see it, and my web is a good thing. I stay put
and wait for what comes. Gives me a chance to think.”
“Well, I’m sort of sedentary myself, I guess,” said
the pig. “I have to hang around here whether I want to
or not. You know where I’d really like to be this eve-
“In a forest looking for beechnuts and truffles and
delectable roots, pushing leaves aside with my wonder-
ful strong nose, searching and sniffing along the ground,
smelling, smelling, smelling . . .”
“You smell just the way you are,” remarked a lamb
who had just walked in. “I can smell you from here.
You’re the smelliest creature in the place.”
Wilbur hung his head. His eyes grew wet with tears.
Charlotte noticed his embarrassment and she spoke
sharply to the lamb.
“Let Wilbur alone!” she said. “He has a perfect
right to smell, considering his surroundings. You’re no
bundle of sweet peas yourself. Furthermore, you are
interrupting a very pleasant conversation. What were
we talking about, Wilbur, when we were so rudely in-
“Oh, I don’t remember,” said Wilbur. “It doesn’t
make any difference. Let’s not talk any more for a
while, Charlotte. I’m getting sleepy. You go ahead and
finish fixing your web and I’ll just lie here and watch
you. It’s a lovely evening.” Wilbur stretched out on
Twilight settled over Zuckerman’s barn, and a feel-
ing of peace. Fern knew it was almost suppertime but
she couldn’t bear to leave. Swallows passed on silent
wings, in and out of the doorways, bringing food to
their young ones. From across the road a bird sang
“Whippoorwill, whippoorwill! ” Lurvy sat down under
an apple tree and lit his pipe; the animals sniffed the
familiar smell of strong tobacco. Wilbur heard the trill
of the tree toad and the occasional slamming of the
kitchen door. All these sounds made him feel comfort-
able and happy, for he loved life and loved to be a part
of the world on a summer evening. But as he lay there
he remembered what the old sheep had told him. The
thought of death came to him and he began to tremble
“Charlotte?” he said, softly.
“I don’t want to die.”
‘Of course you don’t,” said Charlotte in a comfort-
“I just love it here in the barn,” said Wilbur. “I love
everything about this place.”
Wilbur’s Boast 63
“Of course you do,” said Charlotte. “We all do.”
The goose appeared, followed by her seven goslings.
They thrust their little necks out and kept up a musical
whistling, like a tiny troupe of pipers. Wilbur listened
to the sound with love in his heart.
“Charlotte?” he said.
“Yes?” said the spider.
“Were you serious when you promised you would
keep them from killing me?”
“I was never more serious in my life. I am not going
to let you die, Wilbur.”
“How are you going to save me?” asked Wilbur,
whose curiosity was very strong on this point.
“Well,” said Charlotte, vaguely, “I don’t really
know. But I’m working on a plan.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Wilbur. “How is the plan
coming, Charlotte? Have you got very far with it? Is
it coming along pretty well?” Wilbur was trembling
again, but Charlotte was cool and collected.
“Oh, it’s coming all right,” she said, lightly. “The
plan is still in its early stages and hasn’t completely
shaped up yet, but I’m working on it.”
“When do you work on it?” begged Wilbur.
“When I’m hanging head-down at the top of my
web. That’s when I do my thinking, because then all
the blood is in my head.”
“I’d be only too glad to help in any way I can.”
64 Charlotte's Web
“Oh, I’ll work it out alone,” said Charlotte. “I can
think better if I think alone.”
“All right,” said Wilbur. “But don’t fail to let me
know if there’s anything I can do to help, no matter
“Well,” replied Charlotte, “you must try to build
yourself up. I want you to get plenty of sleep, and stop
worrying. Never hurry and never worry! Chew your
food thoroughly and eat every bit of it, except you
must leave just enough for Templeton. Gain weight
and stay well — that’s the way you can help. Keep fit,
and don’t lose your nerve. Do you think you under-
“Yes, I understand,” said Wilbur.
“Go along to bed, then,” said Charlotte. “Sleep is im-
Wilbur trotted over to the darkest corner of his pen
and threw himself down. He closed his eyes. In another
minute he spoke.
“Charlotte?” he said.
“May I go out to my trough and see if I left any of
my supper? I think I left just a tiny bit of mashed po-
“Very well,” said Charlotte. “But I want you in bed
again without delay.”
Wilbur started to race out to his yard.
Wilbur’s Boast 65
“Slowly, slowly!” said Charlotte. “Never hurry and
Wilbur checked himself and crept slowly to his
trough. He found a bit of potato, chewed it carefully,
swallowed it, and walked back to bed. He closed his
eyes and was silent for a while.
“Charlotte?” he said, in a whisper.
“May I get a drink of milk? I think there are a few
drops of milk left in my trough.”
“No, the trough is dry, and I want you to go to sleep.
No more talking! Close your eyes and go to sleep!”
Wilbur shut his eyes. Fern got up from her stool and
started for home, her mind full of everything she had
seen and heard.
“Good night, Charlotte! ” said Wilbur.
“Good night, Wilbur!”
There was a pause.
“Good night, Charlotte!”
“Good night, Wilbur!”
D AY AFTER day the spider waited, head-
| down, for an idea to come to her. Hour by
' hour she sat motionless, deep in thought.
Having promised Wilbur that she would
save his life, she was determined to keep her promise.
Charlotte was naturally patient. She knew from ex-
An Explosion 6-j
perience that if she waited long enough, a fly would
come to her web; and she felt sure that if she thought
long enough about Wilbur’s problem, an idea would
come to her mind.
Finally, one morning toward the middle of July, the
idea came. “Why, how perfectly simple!” she said to
herself. “The way to save Wilbur’s life is to play a
trick on Zuckerman. If I can fool a bug,” thought Char-
lotte, “I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart
Wilbur walked into his yard just at that moment.
“What are you thinking about, Charlotte?” he asked.
“I was just thinking,” said the spider, “that people
are very gullible.”
“What does ‘gullible’ mean?”
“Easy to fool,” said Charlotte.
“That’s a mercy,” replied Wilbur, and he lay down
in the shade of his fence and went fast asleep. The
spider, however, stayed wide awake, gazing affection-
ately at him and making plans for his future. Summer
was half gone. She knew she didn’t have much time.
That morning, just as Wilbur fell asleep, Avery
Arable wandered into the Zuckerman’s front yard, fol-
lowed by Fern. Avery carried a live frog in his hand.
68 Charlotte's Web
Fern had a crown of daisies in her hair. The children
ran for the kitchen.
“Just in time for a piece of blueberry pie,” said Mrs.
“Look at my frog!” said Avery, placing the frog on
the drainboard and holding out his hand for pie.
“Take that thing out of here!” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“He’s hot,” said Fern. “He’s almost dead, that frog.”
“He is not,” said Avery. “He lets me scratch him be-
tween the eyes.” The frog jumped and landed in Mrs.
Zuckerman’s dishpan full of soapy water.
“You’re getting your pie on you,” said Fern. “Can
I look for eggs in the henhouse, Aunt Edith?”
“Run outdoors, both of you! And don’t bother the
“It’s getting all over everything,” shouted Fern. “His
pie is all over his front.”
“Come on, frog!” cried Avery. He scooped up his
frog. The frog kicked, splashing soapy water onto the
“Another crisis!” groaned Fern.
“Let’s swing in the swing!” said Avery.
The children ran to the barn.
Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It
was a single long piece of heavy rope tied to the beam
over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope
was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you
An Explosion 69
could swing without being pushed. You climbed a
ladder to the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you
stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared
and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it
acted as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took
a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed
to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then sud-
denly the rope would begin to catch you, and you
would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute,
with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair.
Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look
up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you
would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would
drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sail-
ing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail
out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not
quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out,
then in; and then you’d jump off and fall down and let
somebody else try it.
Mothers for miles around worried about Zucker-
man’s swing. They feared some child would fall off.
But no child ever did. Children almost always hang
onto things tighter than their parents think they will.
Avery put the frog in his pocket and climbed to the
hayloft. “The last time I swang in this swing, I almost
crashed into a barn swallow,” he yelled.
“Take that frog out!” ordered Fern.
70 Charlotte's Web
Avery straddled the rope and jumped. He sailed out
through the door, frog and all, and into the sky, frog
and all. Then he sailed back into the barn.
“Your tongue is purple! ” screamed Fern.
“So is yours!” cried Avery, sailing out again with the
“I have hay inside my dress! It itches!” called Fern.
“Scratch it!” yelled Avery, as he sailed back.
“It’s my turn,” said Fern. “Jump off!”
“Fern’s got the itch!” sang Avery.
When he jumped off, he threw the swing up to his
sister. She shut her eyes tight and jumped. She felt the
dizzy drop, then the supporting lift of the swing.
When she opened her eyes she was looking up into the
blue sky and was about to fly back through the door.
They took turns for an hour.
When the children grew tired of swinging, they
went down toward the pasture and picked wild rasp-
berries and ate them. Their tongues turned from purple
to red. Fern bit into a raspberry that had a bad-tasting
bug inside it, and got discouraged. Avery found an
empty candy box and put his frog in it. The frog
seemed tired after his morning in the swing. The chil-
dren walked slowly up toward the barn. They, too,
were tired and hardly had energy enough to walk.
“Let’s build a tree house,” suggested Avery. “I want
to live in a tree, with my frog.”
“I’m going to visit Wilbur,” Fern announced.
They climbed the fence into the lane and walked
lazily toward the pigpen. Wilbur heard them coming
and got up.
Avery noticed the spider web, and, coming closer,
he saw Charlotte.
72 Charlotte’s Web
“Hey, look at that big spider!” he said. “It’s tre-
“Leave it alone!” commanded Fern. “You’ve got a
frog — isn’t that enough?”
“That’s a fine spider and I’m going to capture it,”
said Avery. He took the cover off the candy box. Then
he picked up a stick. “I’m going to knock that ol’
spider into this box,” he said.
Wilbur’s heart almost stopped when he saw what
was going on. This might be the end of Charlotte if
the boy succeeded in catching her.
“You stop it, Avery!” cried Fern.
Avery put one leg over the fence of the pigpen. He
was just about to raise his stick to hit Charlotte when
he lost his balance. He swayed and toppled and landed
on the edge of Wilbur’s trough. The trough tipped up
and then came down with a slap. The goose egg was
right underneath. There was a dull explosion as the egg
broke, and then a horrible smell.
Fern screamed. Avery jumped to his feet. The air
was filled with the terrible gases and smells from the
rotten egg. Templeton, who had been resting in his
home, scuttled away into the barn.
“Good night\" screamed Avery. “Good nightl
What a stink! Let’s get out of here!”
Fern was crying. She held her nose and ran toward
the house. Avery ran after her, holding his nose.
An Explosion 73
Charlotte felt greatly relieved to see him go. It had been
a narrow escape.
Later on that morning, the animals came up from the
pasture — the sheep, the lambs, the gander, the goose,
and the seven goslings. There were many complaints
about the awful smell, and Wilbur had to tell the story
over and over again, of how the Arable boy had tried
to capture Charlotte, and how the smell of the broken
egg drove him away just in time. “It was that rotten
goose egg that saved Charlotte’s life,” said Wilbur.
The goose was proud of her share in the adventure.
74 Charlotte’s Web
“I’m delighted that the egg never hatched,” she gab-
Templeton, of course, was miserable over the loss
of his beloved egg. But he couldn’t resist boasting. “It
pays to save things,” he said in his surly voice. “A rat
never knows when something is going to come in
handy. I never throw anything away.”
“Well,” said one of the lambs, “this whole business
is all well and good for Charlotte, but what about the
rest of us? The smell is unbearable. Who wants to live
in a barn that is perfumed with rotten egg?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” said Templeton.
He sat up and pulled wisely at his long whiskers, then
crept away to pay a visit to the dump.
When Lurvy showed up at lunchtime carrying a pail
of food for Wilbur, he stopped short a few paces from
the pigpen. He sniffed the air and made a face.
“What in thunder?” he said. Setting the pail down,
he picked up the stick that Avery had dropped and
pried the trough up. “Rats!” he said. “Fhew! I might
a’ known a rat would make a nest under this trough.
How I hate a rat! ”
And Lurvy dragged Wilbur’s trough across the
yard and kicked some dirt into the rat’s nest, burying
the broken egg and all Templeton’s other possessions.
Then he picked up the pail. Wilbur stood in the trough,
drooling with hunger. Lurvy poured. The slops ran
An Explosion 7 5
creamily down around the pig’s eyes and ears. Wilbur
grunted. He gulped and sucked, and sucked and
gulped, making swishing and swooshing noises, anxious
to get everything at once. It was a delicious meal —
skim milk, wheat middlings, leftover pancakes, half a
doughnut, the rind of a summer squash, two pieces of
stale toast, a third of a gingersnap, a fish tail, one orange
peel, several noodles from a noodle soup, the scum off
a cup of cocoa, an ancient jelly roll, a strip of paper
from the lining of the garbage pail, and a spoonful of
Wilbur ate heartily. He planned to leave half a
noodle and a few drops of milk for Templeton. Then
he remembered that the rat had been useful in saving
Charlotte’s life, and that Charlotte was trying to save
his life. So he left a whole noodle, instead of a half.
Now that the broken egg was buried, the air cleared
and the barn smelled good again. The afternoon
passed, and evening came. Shadows lengthened. The
cool and kindly breath of evening entered through
doors and windows. Astride her web, Charlotte sat
moodily eating a horsefly and thinking about the
future. After a while she bestirred herself.
She descended to the center of the web and there
she began to cut some of her lines. She worked slowly
but steadily while the other creatures drowsed. None
of the others, not even the goose, noticed that she was
7 6 Charlotte's Web
at work. Deep in his soft bed, Wilbur snoozed. Over
in their favorite corner, the goslings whistled a night
Charlotte tore quite a section out of her web, leaving
an open space in the middle. Then she started weaving
something to take the place of the threads she had
removed. When Templeton got back from the dump,
around midnight, the spider was still at work.
T HE NEXT day was foggy. Everything on
the farm was dripping wet. The grass looked
like a magic carpet. The asparagus patch
looked like a silver forest.
On foggy mornings, Charlotte’s web was truly a
thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was
decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The
web glistened in the light and made a pattern of love-
liness and mystery, like a delicate veil. Even Lurvy,
who wasn’t particularly interested in beauty, noticed
the web when he came with the pig’s breakfast. He
noted how clearly it showed up and he noted how big
and carefully built it was. And then he took another
look and he saw something that made him set his pail
down. There, in the center of the web, neatly woven
in block letters, was a message. It said:
Lurvy felt weak. He brushed his hand across his eyes
and stared harder at Charlotte’s web.
“I’m seeing things,” he whispered. He dropped to
his knees and uttered a short prayer. Then, forgetting
all about Wilbur’s breakfast, he walked back to the
house and called Mr. Zuckerman.
“I think you’d better come down to the pigpen,” he
“What’s the trouble?” asked Mr. Zuckerman. “Any-
thing wrong with the pig?”
“N-not exactly,” said Lurvy. “Come and see for
The two men walked silently down to Wilbur’s
yard. Lurvy pointed to the spider’s web. “Do you see
what I see?” he asked.
Zuckerman stared at the writing on the web. Then
he murmured the words “Some Pig.” Then he looked
at Lurvy. Then they both began to tremble. Charlotte,
sleepy after her night’s exertions, smiled as she watched.
Wilbur came and stood directly under the web.
“Some pig!” muttered Lurvy in a low voice.
“Some pig!” whispered Mr. Zuckerman. They
stared and stared for a long time at Wilbur. Then they
stared at Charlotte.
“You don’t suppose that that spider . . .” began
xMr. Zuckerman — but he shook his head and didn’t
finish the sentence. Instead, he walked solemnly back
up to the house and spoke to his wife. “Edith, some-
thing has happened,” he said, in a weak voice. He
went into the living room and sat down, and Mrs.
“I’ve got something to tell you, Edith,” he said.
“You better sit down.”
Mrs. Zuckerman sank into a chair. She looked pale
“Edith,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady,
“I think you had best be told that we have a very
A look of complete bewilderment came over Mrs.
Zuckerman’s face. “Homer Zuckerman, what in the
world are you talking about?” she said.
“This is a very serious thing, Edith,” he replied.
“Our pig is completely out of the ordinary.”
“What’s unusual about the pig?” asked Mrs. Zucker-
man, who was beginning to recover from her scare.
“Well, I don’t really know yet,” said Mr. Zucker-
man. “But we have received a sign, Edith — a myste-
rious sign. A miracle has happened on this farm. There
is a large spider’s web in the doorway of the barn
cellar, right over the pigpen, and when Lurvy went to
feed the pig this morning, he noticed the web because
it was foggy, and you know how a spider’s web looks
very distinct in a fog. And right spang in the middle
of the web there were the words ‘Some Pig.’ The words
were woven right into the web. They were actually
part of the web, Edith. I know, because I have been
down there and seen them. It says, ‘Some Pig,’ just as
clear as clear can be. There can be no mistake about it.
A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here
on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary
“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “it seems to me
you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary
“Oh, no,” said Zuckerman. “It’s the pig that’s un-
usual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web.”
“Maybe so,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Just the same,
I intend to have a look at that spider.”
“It’s just a common grey spider,” said Zuckerman.
They got up, and together they walked down to
Wilbur’s yard. “You see, Edith? It’s just a common
Wilbur was pleased to receive so much attention.
Lurvy was still standing there, and Mr. and Mrs.
Zuckerman, all three, stood for about an hour, reading
the words on the web over and over, and watching
Charlotte was delighted with the way her trick was
working. She sat without moving a muscle, and lis-
tened to the conversation of the people. When a small
fly blundered into the web, just beyond the word
“pig,” Charlotte dropped quickly down, rolled the fly
up, and carried it out of the way.
After a while the fog lifted. The web dried off and
the words didn’t show up so plainly. The Zuckermans
and Lurvy walked back to the house. Just before they
left the pigpen, Mr. Zuckerman took one last look at
“You know,” he said, in an important voice, “I’ve
thought all along that that pig of ours was an extra good
one. He’s a solid pig. That pig is as solid as they come.
82 Charlotte's Web
You notice how solid he is around the shoulders,
“Sure. Sure I do,” said Lurvy. “I’ve always noticed
that pig. He’s quite a pig.”
“He’s long, and he’s smooth,” said Zuckerman.
“That’s right,” agreed Lurvy. “He’s as smooth as
they come. He’s some pig.”
When Mr. Zuckerman got back to the house, he
took off his work clothes and put on his best suit. Then
he got into his car and drove to the minister’s house. He
stayed for an hour and explained to the minister that
a miracle had happened on the farm.
“So far,” said Zuckerman, “only four people on
earth know about this miracle — myself, my wife Edith,
my hired man Lurvy, and you.”
“Don’t tell anybody else,” said the minister. “We
don’t know what it means yet, but perhaps if I give
thought to it, I can explain it in my sermon next Sun-
day. There can be no doubt that you have a most un-
usual pig. I intend to speak about it in my sermon and
point out the fact that this community has been visited
with a wondrous animal. By the way, does the pig have
“Why, yes,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “My little niece
calls him Wilbur. She’s a rather queer child — full of
T he Miracle 8 3
notions. She raised the pig on a bottle and I bought
him from her when he was a month old.”
He shook hands with the minister, and left.
Secrets are hard to keep. Long before Sunday came,
the news spread all over the county. Everybody knew
that a sign had appeared in a spider’s web on the Zuck-
erman place. Everybody knew that the Zuckermans
had a wondrous pig. People came from miles around
to look at Wilbur and to read the words on Charlotte’s
web. The Zuckermans’ driveway was full of cars and
trucks from morning till night — Fords and Chevvies
and Buick roadmasters and GMC pickups and Plym-
84 Charlotte’s Web
ouths and Studebakers and Packards and De Sotos
with gyromatic transmissions and Oldsmobiles with
rocket engines and Jeep station wagons and Pontiacs.
The news of the wonderful pig spread clear up into
the hills, and farmers came rattling down in buggies
and buckboards, to stand hour after hour at Wilbur’s
pen admiring the miraculous animal. All said they had
never seen such a pig before in their lives.
When Fern told her mother that Avery had tried to
hit the Zuckermans’ spider with a stick, Mrs. Arable
was so shocked that she sent Avery to bed without any
supper, as punishment.
In the days that followed, Mr. Zuckerman was so
busy entertaining visitors that he neglected his farm
work. He wore his good clothes all the time now — got
right into them when he got up in the morning. Mrs.
Zuckerman prepared special meals for Wilbur. Lurvy
shaved and got a haircut; and his principal farm duty
was to feed the pig while people looked on.
Mr. Zuckerman ordered Lurw to increase Wilbur’s
feedings from three meals a day to four meals a day.
The Zuckermans were so busy with visitors they forgot
about other things on the farm. The blackberries got
ripe, and Mrs. Zuckerman failed to put up any black-
berry jam. The corn needed hoeing, and Lurvy didn’t
find time to hoe it.
On Sunday the church was full. The minister ex-
plained the miracle. He said that the words on the
spider’s web proved that human beings must always
be on the watch for the coming of wonders.
All in all, the Zuckermans’ pigpen was the center
of attraction. Fern was happy, for she felt that Char-
lotte’s trick was working and that Wilbur’s life would
be saved. But she found that the bam was not nearly
as pleasant — too many people. She liked it better when
she could be all alone with her friends the animals.
O NE EVENING, a few days after the writ-
i ing had appeared in Charlotte’s web, the
* spider called a meeting of all the animals
in the barn cellar.
“I shall begin by calling the roll. Wilbur?”
“Here!” said the pig.
“Here, here, here!” said the gander.
“You sound like three ganders,” muttered Char-
lotte. “Why can’t you just say ‘here’? Why do you
have to repeat everything?”
“It’s my idio-idio-idiosyncrasy,” replied the gander.
“Goose?” said Charlotte.
“Here, here, here!” said the goose. Charlotte glared
“Goslings, one through seven?”
“Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!”
“Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee -bee! ” “Bee-
bee-bee!” said the goslings.
“This is getting to be quite a meeting,” said Charlotte.
A Meeting 87
“Anybody would think we had three ganders, three
geese, and twenty-one goslings. Sheep?”
“He-aa-aa! ” answered the sheep all together.
“He-aa-aa!” answered the lambs all together.
“Well, we are all here except the rat,” said Charlotte.
“I guess we can proceed without him. Now, all of you
must have noticed what’s been going on around here the
last few days. The message I wrote in my web, praising
Wilbur, has been received. The Zuckermans have fallen
for it, and so has everybody else. Zuckerman thinks
Wilbur is an unusual pig, and therefore he won’t want
to kill him and eat him. I dare say my trick will work
and Wilbur’s life can be saved.
“Hurray!” cried everybody.
“Thank you very much,” said Charlotte. “Now I
called this meeting in order to get suggestions. I need
new ideas for the web. People are already getting sick
of reading the words ‘Some Pig! ’ If anybody can think
of another message, or remark. I’ll be glad to weave it
into the web. Any suggestions for a new slogan?”
“How about ‘Pig Supreme’?” asked one of the lambs.
“No good,” said Charlotte. “It sounds like a rich des-
How about ‘Terrific, terrific, terrific’?” asked the
“Cut that down to one ‘terrific’ and it will do very
A Meeting 89
nicely,” said Charlotte. “I think ‘terrific’ might impress
“But Charlotte,” said Wilbur, “I’m not terrific.”
“That doesn’t make a particle of difference,” replied
Charlotte. “Not a particle. People believe almost any-
thing they see in print. Does anybody here know how
to spell ‘terrific’?”
“I think,” said the gander, “it’s tee double ee double
rr double rr double eye double ff double eye double see
see see see see.”
“What kind of an acrobat do you think I am?” said
Charlotte in disgust. “I would have to have St. Vitus’s
Dance to weave a word like that into my web.”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” said the gander.
Then the oldest sheep spoke up. “I agree that there
should be something new written in the web if Wilbur’s
life is to be saved. And if Charlotte needs help in finding
words, I think she can get it from our friend Templeton.
The rat visits the dump regularly and has access to old
magazines. He can tear out bits of advertisements and
bring them up here to the barn cellar, so that Charlotte
can have something to copy.”
“Good idea,” said Charlotte. “But I’m not sure Tem-
pleton will be willing to help. You know how he is —
always looking out for himself, never thinking of the
“I bet I can get him to help,” said the old sheep. “I’ll
90 Charlotte's Web
appeal to his baser instincts, of which he has plenty.
Here he comes now. Everybody keep quiet while I put
the matter up to him! ”
The rat entered the barn the way he always did —
creeping along close to the wall.
“What’s up?” he asked, seeing the animals assembled.
“We’re holding a directors’ meeting,” replied the
“Well, break it up!” said Templeton. “Meetings
bore me.” And the rat began to climb a rope that hung
against the wall.
“Look,” said the old sheep, “next time you go to
the dump, Templeton, bring back a clipping from a
magazine. Charlotte needs new ideas so she can write
messages in her web and save Wilbur’s life.”
“Let him die,” said the rat. “I should worry.”
“You’ll worry all right when next winter comes,”
said the sheep. “You’ll worry all right on a zero morn-
ing next January when Wilbur is dead and nobody
comes down here with a nice pail of warm slops to pour
into the trough. Wilbur’s leftover food is your chief
source of supply, Templeton. You know that. Wilbur’s
food is your food; therefore Wilbur’s destiny and your
destiny are closely linked. If Wilbur is killed and his
trough stands empty day after day, you’ll grow so thin
we can look right through your stomach and see objects
on the other side.”
A Meeting 9 1
Templeton’s whiskers quivered.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said gruffly. “I’m making
a trip to the dump tomorrow afternoon. I’ll bring back
a magazine clipping if I can find one.”
“Thanks,” said Charlotte. “The meeting is now ad-
journed. I have a busy evening ahead of me. I’ve got
to tear my web apart and write ‘Terrific.’ ”
Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte.
I’m just about average for a pig.”
“You’re terrific as far as Vm concerned,” replied
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my
best friend, and / think you’re sensational. Now stop
arguing and go get some sleep! ”
F AR INTO the night, while the other creatures
slept, Charlotte worked on her web. First she
ripped out a few of the orb lines near the cen-
ter. She left the radial lines alone, as they were
needed for support. As she worked, her eight legs
were a great help to her. So were her teeth. She loved
to weave and she was an expert at it. When she was
finished ripping things out, her web looked something
Good Progress 93
A spider can produce several kinds of thread. She
uses a dry, tough thread for foundation lines, and she
uses a sticky thread for snare lines — the ones that
catch and hold insects. Charlotte decided to use her
dry thread for writing the new message.
“If I write the word ‘Terrific’ with sticky thread,”
she thought, “every bug that comes along will get stuck
in it and spoil the effect.”
“Now let’s see, the first letter is T.”
Charlotte climbed to a point at the top of the left
hand side of the web. Swinging her spinnerets into posi-
tion, she attached her thread and then dropped down.
As she dropped, her spinning tubes went into action
and she let out thread. At the bottom, she attached the
thread. This formed the upright part of the letter T.
Charlotte was not satisfied, however. She climbed up
and made another attachment, right next to the first.
Then she carried the line down, so that she had a
double line instead of a single line. “It will show up
better if I make the whole thing with double lines.”
She climbed back up, moved over about an inch to
the left, touched her spinnerets to the web, and then
carried a line across to the right, forming the top of the
T. She repeated this, making it double. Her eight legs
were very busy helping.
“Now for the E!”
Charlotte got so interested in her work, she began to
94 Charlotte's Web
talk to herself, as though to cheer herself on. If you
had been sitting quietly in the barn cellar that evening,
you would have heard something like this:
“Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay
out line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat!
Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady
now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay
out line! Attach! Now right and down and swing that
loop and around and around! Now in to the left!
Attach! Climb! Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines
together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the
R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend! Repeat!
And so, talking to herself, the spider worked at her
difficult task. When it was completed, she felt hungry.
She ate a small bug that she had been saving. Then she
Next morning, Wilbur arose and stood beneath the
web. He breathed the morning air into his lungs. Drops
of dew, catching the sun, made the web stand out
clearly. When Lurvy arrived with breakfast, there was
the handsome pig, and over him, woven neatly in block
letters, was the word TERRIFIC. Another miracle.
Lurvy rushed and called Mr. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuck-
erman rushed and called Mrs. Zuckerman. Airs. Zuck-
erman ran to the phone and called the Arables. The
Arables climbed into their truck and hurried over.
96 Charlotte’ s Web
Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web
and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who
really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest
and swinging his snout from side to side.
“Terrific!” breathed Zuckerman, in joyful admira-
tion. “Edith, you better phone the reporter on the
Weekly Chronicle and tell him what has happened. He
will want to know about this. He may want to bring a
photographer. There isn’t a pig in the whole state that
is as terrific as our pig.”
The news spread. People who had journeyed to see
Wilbur when he was “some pig” came back again to
see him now that he was “terrific.”
That afternoon, when Mr. Zuckerman went to milk
the cows and clean out the tie-ups, he was still thinking
about what a wondrous pig he owned.
“Lurvy!” he called. “There is to be no more cow
manure thrown down into that pigpen. I have a terrific
pig. I want that pig to have clean, bright straw every
day for his bedding. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” said Lurvy.
“Furthermore,” said Mr. Zuckerman, “I want you to
start building a crate for Wilbur. I have decided to take
the pig to the County Fair on September sixth. Make
the crate large and paint it green with gold letters!”
“What will the letters say?” asked Lurvy.
“They should say Z uckerman's Famous Pig.”
Good Progress 97
Lurvy picked up a pitchfork and walked away to
get some clean straw. Having such an important pig
was going to mean plenty of extra work, he could see
Below the apple orchard, at the end of a path, was
the dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of
trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. Here,
in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild
raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles
and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and
broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs
and dead batteries and last month’s magazines and old
discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty
spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless
junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a
broken ice-cream freezer.
Templeton knew the dump and liked it. There were
good hiding places there — excellent cover for a rat.
And there was usually a tin can with food still clinging
to the inside.
Templeton was down there now, rummaging
around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in
his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crum-
“How’s this?” he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte.
98 Charlotte's Web
“It says ‘Crunchy.’ ‘Crunchy’ would be a good word
to write in your web.”
“Just the wrong idea,” replied Charlotte. “Couldn’t
be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur
is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp,
crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas
into his head. We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qual-
ities, not his tastiness. Go get another word, please,
The rat looked disgusted. But he sneaked away to
the dump and was back in a while with a strip of cotton
cloth. “How’s this?” he asked. “It’s a label off an old
Charlotte examined the label. It said PRE-
Good Progress 99
“I’m sorry, Templeton,” she said, “but ‘Pre-shrunk’
is out of the question. We want Zuckerman to think
Wilbur is nicely filled out, not all shrunk up. I’ll have
to ask you to try again.”
“What do you think I am, a messenger boy?”
grumbled the rat. “I’m not going to spend all my time
chasing down to the dump after advertising material.”
“Just once more — please!” said Charlotte.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Templeton. “I know
where there’s a package of soap flakes in the woodshed.
It has writing on it. I’ll bring you a piece of the pack-
He climbed the rope that hung on the wall and dis-
appeared through a hole in the ceiling. When he came
back he had a strip of blue-and-white cardboard in his
“There!” he said, triumphantly. “How’s that?”
Charlotte read the words: “With New Radiant
“What does it mean?” asked Charlotte, who had
never used any soap flakes in her life.
“How should I know?” said Templeton. “You
asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next
thing you’ll want me to fetch is a dictionary.”
Together they studied the soap ad. “ With new
radiant action,’ ” repeated Charlotte, slowly. “Wilbur!”
Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up.
“Run around!” commanded Charlotte. “I want to
see you in action, to see if you are radiant.”
Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.
“Now back again, faster!” said Charlotte.
Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had
a fine, tight curl in it.
“Jump into the air!” cried Charlotte.
Wilbur jumped as high as he could.
“Keep your knees straight and touch the ground
with your ears!” called Charlotte.
“Do a back flip with a half twist in it! ” cried Char-
Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting
as he went.
“O.K., Wilbur,” said Charlotte. “You can go back
to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess.
I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s
“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”
“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with
affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant
you shall be. I’m in this thing pretty deep now — I might
as well go the limit.”
Tired from his romp, Wilbur lay down in the clean
straw. He closed his eyes. The straw seemed scratchy
— not as comfortable as the cow manure, which was
always delightfully soft to lie in. So he pushed the
straw to one side and stretched out in the manure.
Wilbur sighed. It had been a busy day — his first day of
being terrific. Dozens of people had visited his yard
during the afternoon, and he had had to stand and pose,
looking as terrific as he could. Now he was tired. Fern
had arrived and seated herself quietly on her stool in
“Tell me a story, Charlotte!” said Wilbur, as he lay
waiting for sleep to come. “Tell me a story!”
102 Charlotte's Web
So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what
“Once upon a time,” she began, “I had a beautiful
cousin who managed to build her web across a small
stream. One day a tiny fish leaped into the air and got
tangled in the web. My cousin was very much sur-
prised, of course. The fish was thrashing wildly. My
cousin hardly dared tackle it. But she did. She swooped
down and threw great masses of wrapping material
around the fish and fought bravely to capture it.”
“Did she succeed?” asked Wilbur.
“It was a never-to-be-forgotten battle,” said Char-
lotte. “There was the fish, caught only by one fin, and
its tail wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. There
Good Progress 103
was the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of
“How much did the fish weigh?” asked Wilbur
“I don’t know,” said Charlotte. “There was my
cousin, slipping in, dodging out, beaten mercilessly
over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in,
dancing out, throwing her threads and fighting hard.
First she threw a left around the tail. The fish lashed
back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid-
section. The fish lashed back. Then she dodged to one
side and threw a right, and another right to the fin.
Then a hard left to the head, while the web swayed
“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur.
“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “The fish lost the fight.
My cousin wrapped it up so tight it couldn’t budge.”
“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur.
“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “My cousin kept the fish
for a while, and then, when she got good and ready,
she ate it.”
“Tell me another story! ” begged Wilbur.
So Charlotte told him about another cousin of hers
who was an aeronaut.
“What is an aeronaut?” asked Wilbur.
“A balloonist,” said Charlotte. “My cousin used to
stand on her head and let out enough thread to form a
104 Charlotte’s Web
balloon. Then she’d let go and be lifted into the air and
carried upward on the warm wind.”
“Is that true?” asked Wilbur. “Or are you just
making it up?”
“It’s true,” replied Charlotte. “I have some very
remarkable cousins. And now, Wilbur, it’s time you
went to sleep.”
“Sing something!” begged Wilbur, closing his eyes.
So Charlotte sang a lullaby, while crickets chirped
in the grass and the barn grew dark. This was the song
“Sleep, sleep, my love, my only,
Deep, deep, in the dung and the dark;
Be not afraid and be not lonely!
This is the hour when frogs and thrushes
Praise the world from the woods and the rushes.
Rest from care, my one and only,
Deep in the dung and the dark!”
But Wilbur was already asleep. When the song ended,
Fern got up and went home.
T HE NEXT day was Saturday. Fern stood
at the kitchen sink drying the breakfast
dishes as her mother washed them. Mrs.
Arable worked silently. She hoped Fern
would go out and play with other children, instead of
heading for the Zuckermans’ bam to sit and watch
“Charlotte is the best storyteller I ever heard,” said
Fern, poking her dish towel into a cereal bowl.
“Fern,” said her mother sternly, “you must not in-
vent things. You know spiders don’t tell stories. Spiders
“Charlotte can,” replied Fern. “She doesn’t talk
very loud, but she talks.”
“What kind of story did she tell?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Well,” began Fem, “she told us about a cousin of
hers who caught a fish in her web. Don’t you think
“Fem, dear, how would a fish get in a spider’s web?”
said Mrs. Arable. “You know it couldn’t happen.
You’re making this up.”
106 Charlotte’s Web
“Oh, it happened all right,” replied Fern. “Charlotte
never fibs. This cousin of hers built a web across a
stream. One day she was hanging around on the web
and a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the
web. The fish was caught by one fin, Mother; its tail
was wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. Can’t you
just see the web, sagging dangerously under the weight
of the fish? Charlotte’s cousin kept slipping in, dodging
out, and she was beaten mercilessly over the head by the
wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throw-
ing . .
“Fern!” snapped her mother. “Stop it! Stop invent-
ing these wild tales!”
“I’m not inventing,” said Fern. “I’m just telling you
“What finally happened?” asked her mother, whose
curiosity began to get the better of her.
“Charlotte’s cousin won. She wrapped the fish up,
then she ate him when she got good and ready. Spiders
have to eat, the same as the rest of us.”
“Yes, I suppose they do,” said Mrs. Arable, vaguely.
“Charlotte has another cousin who is a balloonist.
She stands on her head, lets out a lot of line, and is car-
ried aloft on the wind. Mother, wouldn’t you simply
love to do that?”
“Yes, I would, come to think of it,” replied Mrs.
Arable. “But Fern, darling, I wish you would play out-
Dr. Dorian 107
doors today instead of going to Uncle Homer’s barn.
Find some of your playmates and do something nice
outdoors. You’re spending too much time in that barn
— it isn’t good for you to be alone so much.”
“Alone?” said Fern. “Alone? My best friends are in
the barn cellar. It is a very sociable place. Not at all
Fern disappeared after a while, walking down the
road toward Zuckermans’. Her mother dusted the
sitting room. As she worked she kept thinking about
Fern. It didn’t seem natural for a little girl to be so in-
terested in animals. Finally Mrs. Arable made up her
mind she would pay a call on old Doctor Dorian and
ask his advice. She got in the car and drove to his office
in the village.
Dr. Dorian had a thick beard. He was glad to see
Mrs. Arable and gave her a comfortable chair.
“It's about Fern,” she explained. “Fern spends en-
tirely too much time in the Zuckermans’ barn. It
doesn’t seem normal. She sits on a milk stool in a corner
of the barn cellar, near the pigpen, and watches animals,
hour after hour. She just sits and listens.”
Dr. Dorian leaned back and closed his eyes.
“How enchanting!” he said. “It must be real nice
and quiet down there. Homer has some sheep, hasn’t
“Yes,” said Mrs. Arable. “But it all started with that
108 Charlotte's Web
pig we let Fern raise on a bottle. She calls him Wilbur.
Homer bought the pig, and ever since it left our place
Fern has been going to her uncle’s to be near it.”
“I’ve been hearing things about that pig,” said Dr.
Dorian, opening his eyes. “They say he’s quite a pig.”
“Have you heard about the words that appeared in
the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.
“Yes,” replied the doctor.
“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Do you understand how there could be any writing
in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it.
Dr. Dorian 1 09
But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider
learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words
appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But no-
body pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs.
Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle —
it’s just a web.”
“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. “No,” she
replied. “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a
“Sure,” said the doctor. “But somebody taught you,
“My mother taught me.”
“Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows
how to spin a web without any instructions from any-
body. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable. “I never looked at
it that way before. Still, I don’t understand how those
words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I
don’t like what I can’t understand.”
“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing. “I’m a
doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything.
But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend
to let it worry me.”
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to
each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?”
“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But
that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal
has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the
remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay
better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the
animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to
believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would
talk more. People are incessant talkers — I can give you
my word on that.”
“Well, I feel better about Fern,” said Mrs. Arable.
“You don’t think I need worry about her?”
“Does she look well?” asked the doctor.
1 1 1
“Oh, yes, she’s always hungry.”
“Sleep well at night?”
“Then don’t worry,” said the doctor.
“Do you think she’ll ever start thinking about some-
thing besides pigs and sheep and geese and spiders?”
“How old is Fern?”
“Well,” said Dr. Dorian, “I think she will always
love animals. But I doubt that she spends her entire life
in Homer Zuckerman’s barn cellar. How about boys —
does she know any boys?”
“She knows Henry Fussy,” said Mrs. Arable
Dr. Dorian closed his eyes again and went into deep
thought. “Henry Fussy,” he mumbled. “Hmm. Re-
markable. Well, I don’t think you have anything to
worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the
barn if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders
and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet
I predict that the day will come when even Henry will
drop some chance remark that catches Fern’s attention.
It’s amazing how children change from year to year.
How’s Avery?” he asked, opening his eyes wide.
“Oh, Avery,” chuckled Mrs. Arable. “Avery is al-
ways fine. Of course, he gets into poison ivy and gets
I I 2
Charlotte’s W eb
stung by wasps and bees and brings frogs and snakes
home and breaks everything he lays his hands on. He’s
“Good!” said the doctor.
Mrs. Arable said goodbye and thanked Dr. Dorian
very much for his advice. She felt greatlv relieved.
T HE CRICKETS sang in the grasses. They
sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, mo-
notonous song. “Summer is over and gone,”
they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone.
Summer is dying, dying.”
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn every-
body that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the
most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when
summer is changing into fall — the crickets spread the
rumor of sadness and change.
Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery
and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road.
They knew that school would soon begin again. The
young geese heard it and knew that they would never
be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew
that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at
work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness
came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she
sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur,
heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.
1 14 Charlotte’s Web
“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets.
“How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets.
“Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”
The sheep heard the crickets, and they felt so uneasy
they broke a hole in the pasture fence and wandered up
into the field across the road. The gander discovered
the hole and led his family through, and they walked
to the orchard and ate the apples that were lying on the
ground. A little maple tree in the swamp heard the
cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.
Wilbur was now the center of attraction on the farm.
Good food and regular hours were showing results:
Wilbur was a pig any man would be proud of. One day
more than a hundred people came to stand at his yard
and admire him. Charlotte had written the word RA-
DIANT, and Wilbur really looked radiant as he stood
in the golden sunlight. Ever since the spider had be-
friended him, he had done his best to live up to his repu-
tation. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur
had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s
web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific.
And now that the web said RADIANT, he did every-
thing possible to make himself glow.
It is not easy to look radiant, but Wilbur threw him-
self into it with a will. He would turn his head slightly
and blink his long eye-lashes. Then he would breathe
deeply. And when his audience grew bored, he would
The Crickets 115
spring into the air and do a back flip with a half twist.
At this the crowd would yell and cheer. “How’s that
for a pig?” Mr. Zuckerman would ask, well pleased
with himself. “That pig is radiant.”
Some of Wilbur’s friends in the barn worried for
fear all this attention would go to his head and make
him stuck up. But it never did. Wilbur was modest;
fame did not spoil him. He still worried some about the
future, as he could hardly believe that a mere spider
would be able to save his life. Sometimes at night he
would have a bad dream. He would dream that men
were coming to get him with knives and guns. But that
was only a dream. In the daytime, Wilbur usually felt
happy and confident. No pig ever had truer friends,
and he realized that friendship is one of the most satis-
fying things in the world. Even the song of the crickets
did not make Wilbur too sad. He knew it was almost
time for the County Fair, and he was looking forward
to the trip. If he could distinguish himself at the Fair,
and maybe win some prize money, he was sure Zucker-
man would let him live.
Charlotte had worries of her own, but she kept quiet
about them. One morning Wilbur asked her about the
“You’re going 'with me, aren’t you, Charlotte?” he
“Well, I don’t know,” replied Charlotce. “The Fair
1 1 6 Charlotte's Web
comes at a bad time for me. I shall find it inconvenient
to leave home, even for a few days.”
“Why?” asked Wilbur.
“Oh, I just don’t feel like leaving my web. Too much
going on around here.”
“ Please come with me! ” begged Wilbur. “I need you,
Charlotte. I can’t stand going to the Fair without you.
You’ve just got to come.”
“No,” said Charlotte, “I believe I’d better stay home
and see if I can’t get some work done.”
“What kind of work?” asked Wilbur.
“Egg laying. It’s time I made an egg sac and filled it
“I didn’t know you could lay eggs,” said Wilbur in
“Oh, sure,” said the spider. “I’m versatile.”
“What does ‘versatile’ mean — full of eggs?” asked
“Certainly not,” said Charlotte. “ ‘Versatile’ means
I can turn with ease from one thing to another. It means
I don’t have to limit my activities to spinning and trap-
ping and stunts like that.”
“Why don’t you come with me to the Fair Grounds
and lay your eggs there?” pleaded Wilbur. “It would
be wonderful fun.”
Charlotte gave her web a twitch and moodily
watched it sway. “I’m afraid not,” she said. “You don’t
T he Crickets 1 1 7
know the first thing about egg laying, Wilbur. I can’t
arrange my family duties to suit the management of the
County Fair. When I get ready to lay eggs, I have to
lay eggs, Fair or no Fair. However, I don’t want you to
worry about it — you might lose weight. We’ll leave it
this way: I’ll come to the Fair if I possibly can.”
“Oh, good! ” said Wilbur. “I knew you wouldn’t for-
sake me just when I need you most.”
All that day Wilbur stayed inside, taking life easy in
the straw. Charlotte rested and ate a grasshopper. She
knew that she couldn’t help Wilbur much longer. In a
few days she would have to drop everything and build
the beautiful little sac that would hold her eggs.
Off to the Fair
T HE NIGHT before the County Fair, every-
body went to bed early. Fern and Avery
were in bed by eight. Avery lay dreaming
that the Ferris wheel had stopped and that
he was in the top car. Fern lay dreaming that she was
getting sick in the swings.
Lurvy was in bed by eight-thirty. He lay dreaming
that he was throwing baseballs at a cloth cat and
winning a genuine Navajo blanket. Mr. and Mrs.
Zuckerman were in bed by nine. Mrs. Zuckerman lay
dreaming about a deep freeze unit. Mr. Zuckerman lay
1 1 8
Off to the Fair 1 1 9
dreaming about Wilbur. He dreamt that Wilbur had
grown until he was one hundred and sixteen feet long
and ninety-two feet high and that he had won all the
prizes at the Fair and was covered with blue ribbons
and even had a blue ribbon tied to the end of his tail.
Down in the bam cellar, the animals, too, went to
sleep early, all except Charlotte. Tomorrow would be
Fair Day. Every creature planned to get up early to see
Wilbur off on his great adventure.
When morning came, everybody got up at daylight.
The day was hot. Up the road at the Arables’ house,
Fern lugged a pail of hot water to her room and took a
sponge bath. Then she put on her prettiest dress be-
cause she knew she would see boys at the Fair. Mrs.
Arable scrubbed the back of Avery’s neck, and wet his
hair, and parted it, and brushed it down hard till it
stuck to the top of his head — all but about six hairs that
stood straight up. Avery put on clean underwear, clean
blue jeans, and a clean shirt. Mr. Arable dressed, ate
breakfast, and then went out and polished his truck.
He had offered to drive everybody to the Fair, includ-
Bright and early, Lurvy put clean straw in Wilbur’s
crate and lifted it into the pigpen. The crate was green.
In gold letters it said:
ZUCKERMAN’S FAMOUS PIG
Charlotte had her web looking fine for the occasion.
Wilbur ate his breakfast slowly. He tried to look ra-
diant without getting food in his ears.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Zuckerman suddenly made an
“Homer,” she said to her husband, “I am going to
give that pig a buttermilk bath.”
“A what?” said Mr. Zuckerman.
“A buttermilk bath. My grandmother used to bathe
her pig with buttermilk when it got dirty — I just re-
“Wilbur’s not dirty,” said Mr. Zuckerman proudly.
“He’s filthy behind the ears,” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“Every time Lurvy slops him, the food runs down
around the ears. Then it dries and forms a crust. He also
has a smudge on one side where he lays in the manure.”
“He lays in clean straw,” corrected Mr. Zuckerman.
“Well, he’s dirty, and he’s going to have a bath.”
Mr. Zuckerman sat down weakly and ate a dough-
nut. His wife went to the woodshed. When she re-
turned, she wore rubber boots and an old raincoat, and
she carried a bucket of buttermilk and a small wooden
“Edith, you’re crazy,” mumbled Zuckerman.
But she paid no attention to him. Together they
walked to the pigpen. Mrs. Zuckerman wasted no time.
She climbed in with Wilbur and went to work. Dip-
I 2 I
Off to the Fair
ping her paddle in the buttermilk, she rubbed him all
over. The geese gathered around to see the fun, and so
did the sheep and lambs. Even Templeton poked his
head out cautiously, to watch Wilbur get a buttermilk
bath. Charlotte got so interested, she lowered herself
on a dragline so she could see better. Wilbur stood still
and closed his eyes. He could feel the buttermilk trick-
ling down his sides. He opened his mouth and some
buttermilk ran in. It was delicious. He felt radiant and
happy. When Mrs. Zuckerman got through and rubbed
him dry, he was the cleanest, prettiest pig you ever saw.
He was pure white, pink around the ears and snout,
and smooth as silk.
The Zuckermans went up to change into their best
clothes. Lurvy went to shave and put on his plaid shirt
and his purple necktie. The animals were left to them-
selves in the barn.
The seven goslings paraded round and round their
“Please, please, please take us to the Fair!” begged a
gosling. Then all seven began teasing to go.
“Please, please, please, please, please, please . . .”
They made quite a racket.
“Children!” snapped the goose. “We’re staying
quietly-ietly-ietly at home. Only Wilbur-ilbur-ilbur is
going to the Fair.”
Just then Charlotte interrupted.
“I shall go, too,” she said, softly. “I have decided to
go with Wilbur. He may need me. We can’t tell what
may happen at the Fair Grounds. Somebody’s got to go
along who knows how to write. And I think Temple-
ton better come, too — I might need somebody to run
errands and do general work.”
“I’m staying right here,” grumbled the rat. “I haven’t
the slightest interest in fairs.”
“That’s because you’ve never been to one,” remarked
the old sheep. “A fair is a rat’s paradise. Everybody
spills food at a fair. A rat can creep out late at night and
Off to the Fair 1 2 3
have a feast. In the horse barn you will find oats that
the trotters and pacers have spilled. In the trampled
grass of the infield you will find old discarded lunch
boxes containing the foul remains of peanut butter
sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cracker crumbs, bits of
doughnuts, and particles of cheese. In the hard-packed
dirt of the midway, after the glaring lights are out and
the people have gone home to bed, you will find a
veritable treasure of popcorn fragments, frozen custard
dribblings, candied apples abandoned by tired children,
sugar fluff crystals, salted almonds, popsicles, partially
gnawed ice cream cones, and the wooden sticks of lolly-
pops. Everywhere is loot for a rat — in tents, in booths,
in hay lofts — why, a fair has enough disgusting left-
over food to satisfy a whole army of rats.”
Templeton’s eyes were blazing.
“Is this true?” he asked. “Is this appetizing yarn of
yours true? I like high living, and what you say
“It is true,” said the old sheep. “Go to the Fair, Tem-
pleton. You will find that the conditions at a fair will
surpass your wildest dreams. Buckets with sour mash
sticking to them, tin cans containing particles of tuna
fish, greasy paper bags stuffed with rotten . . .”
“That’s enough!” cried Templeton. “Don’t tell me
any more. I’m going.”
“Good,” said Charlotte, winking at the old sheep.
124 Charlotte's Web
“Now then — there is no time to be lost. Wilbur will
soon be put into the crate. Templeton and I must get
in the crate right now and hide ourselves.”
The rat didn’t waste a minute. He scampered over to
the crate, crawled between the slats, and pulled straw
up over him so he was hidden from sight.
“All right,” said Charlotte, “I’m next.” She sailed
into the air, let out a dragline, and dropped gently to
the ground. Then she climbed the side of the crate and
hid herself inside a knothole in the top board.
The old sheep nodded. “What a cargo!” she said.
“That sign ought to say ‘Zuckerman’s Famous Pig
and Two Stowaways’.”
“Look out, the people are coming-oming-oming!”
shouted the gander. “Cheese it, cheese it, cheese it!”
The big truck with Mr. Arable at the wheel backed
slowly down toward the barnyard. Lurvy and Mr.
Zuckerman walked alongside. Fern and Avery were
standing in the body of the truck hanging on to the
“Listen to me,” whispered the old sheep to Wilbur.
“When they open the crate and try to put you in,
struggle! Don’t go without a tussle. Pigs always re-
sist when they are being loaded.”
“If I struggle I’ll get dirty,” said Wilbur.
“Never mind that — do as I say! Struggle! If you
were to walk into the crate without resisting, Zucker-
Off to the Fair 1 2 5
man might think you were bewitched. He’d be scared
to go to the Fair.”
Templeton poked his head up through the straw.
“Struggle if you must,” said he, “but kindly remember
that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want
to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled,
or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about,
or bruised, or lacerated, or scarred, or biffed. Just
watch what you’re doing, Mr. Radiant, when they get
shoving you in!”
“Be quiet, Templeton!” said the sheep. “Pull in your
head — they’re coming. Look radiant, Wilbur! Lay low,
Charlotte! Talk it up, geese!”
The truck backed slowly to the pigpen and stopped.
Mr. Arable cut the motor, got out, walked around to
the rear, and lowered the tailgate. The geese cheered.
Mrs. Arable got out of the truck. Fern and Avery
jumped to the ground. Mrs. Zuckerman came walking
down from the house. Everybody lined up at the fence
and stood for a moment admiring Wilbur and the beau-
tiful green crate. Nobody realized that the crate al-
ready contained a rat and a spider.
“That’s some pig!” said Mrs. Arable.
“He’s terrific,” said Lurvy.
“He’s very radiant,” said Fern, remembering the day
he was born.
“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “he’s clean, anyway.
The buttermilk certainly helped.”
Mr. Arable studied Wilbur carefully. “Yes, he’s a
wonderful pig,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that he
was the runt of the litter. You’ll get some extra good
ham and bacon, Homer, when it comes time to kill
Wilbur heard these words and his heart almost
stopped. “I think I’m going to faint,” he whispered to
the old sheep, who was watching.
“Kneel down!” whispered the old sheep. “Let the
blood rush to your head!”
Wilbur sank to his knees, all radiance gone. His eyes
“Look!” screamed Fern. “He’s fading away!”
“Hey, watch me!” yelled Avery, crawling on all
fours into the crate. “I’m a pig! I’m a pig!”
Avery’s foot touched Templeton under the straw.
“What a mess!” thought the rat. “What fantastic crea-
tures boys are! Why did I let myself in for this?”
The geese saw Avery in the crate and cheered.
“Avery, you get out of that crate this instant!” com-
manded his mother. “What do you think you are?”
“I’m a pig!” cried Avery, tossing handfuls of straw
into the air. “Oink, oink, oink!”
“The truck is rolling away, Papa,” said Fern.
The truck, with no one at the wheel, had started to
Off to the Fair 127
roll downhill. Mr. Arable dashed to the driver’s seat
and pulled on the emergency brake. The truck stopped.
The geese cheered. Charlotte crouched and made her-
self as small as possible in the knothole, so Avery
wouldn’t see her.
“Come out at once!” cried Mrs. Arable. Avery
crawled out of the crate on hands and knees, making
faces at Wilbur. Wilbur fainted away.
“The pig has passed out,” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“Throw water on him!”
“Throw buttermilk!” suggested Avery.
The geese cheered.
Lurvy ran for a pail of water. Fern climbed into the
pen and knelt by Wilbur’s side.
“It’s sunstroke,” said Zuckerman. “The heat is too
much for him.”
“Maybe he’s dead,” said Avery.
“Come out of that pigpen immediately !” cried Mrs.
Arable. Avery obeyed his mother and climbed into the
back of the truck so he could see better. Lurvy returned
with cold water and dashed it on Wilbur.
“Throw some on me!” cried Avery. “I’m hot, too.”
“Oh, keep quiet!” hollered Fern. “Keep qui- ut!”
Her eyes were brimming with tears.
Wilbur, feeling the cold water, came to. He rose
slowly to his feet, while the geese cheered.
“He’s up!” said Mr. Arable. “I guess there’s nothing
wrong with him.”
“I’m hungry,” said Avery. “I want a candied apple.”
“Wilbur’s all right now,” said Fern. “We can start.
I want to take a ride in the Ferris wheel.”
Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Arable and Lurvy grabbed
the pig and pushed him headfirst toward the crate. Wil-
bur began to struggle. The harder the men pushed, the
harder he held back. Avery jumped down and joined
the men. Wilbur kicked and thrashed and grunted.
“Nothing wrong with this pig,” said Mr. Zuckerman
cheerfully, pressing his knee against Wilbur’s behind.
“All together, now, boys! Shove!”
With a final heave they jammed him into the crate.
The geese cheered. Lurvy nailed some boards across
the end, so Wilbur couldn’t back out. Then, using all
their strength, the men picked up the crate and heaved
Off to the Fair 129
it aboard the truck. They did not know that under the
straw was a rat, and inside a knothole was a big grey
spider. They saw only a pig.
“Everybody in! ” called Mr. Arable. He started the
motor. The ladies climbed in beside him. Mr. Zucker-
man and Lurvy and Fern and Avery rode in back, hang-
ing onto the sideboards. The truck began to move
ahead. The geese cheered. The children answered their
cheer, and away went everybody to the Fair.
Chapter XV 11
W HEN they pulled into the Fair
Grounds, they could hear music and
see the Ferris wheel turning in the
sky. They could smell the dust of the
race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it;
and they could smell hamburgers frying and see bal-
loons aloft. They could hear sheep blatting in their
pens. An enormous voice over the loudspeaker said:
“Attention, please! Will the owner of a Pontiac car,
license number H-2439, please move your car away
from the fireworks shed!”
“Can I have some money?” asked Fern.
“Can I, too?” asked Avery.
“I’m going to win a doll by spinning a wheel and it
will stop at the right number,” said Fern.
“I’m going to steer a jet plane and make it bump into
“Can I have a balloon?” asked Fern.
“Can I have a frozen custard and a cheeseburger and
some raspberry soda pop?” asked Avery.
Uncle 13 1
“You children be quiet till we get the pig unloaded,”
said Mrs. Arable.
“Let’s let the children go off by themselves,” sug-
gested Mr. Arable. “The Fair only comes once a year.”
Mr. Arable gave Fern two quarters and two dimes. He
gave Avery five dimes and four nickels. “Now run
along!” he said. “And remember, the money has to last
all day. Don’t spend it all the first few minutes. And be
back here at the truck at noontime so we can all have
lunch together. And don’t eat a lot of stuff that’s going
to make you sick to your stomachs.”
“And if you go in those swings,” said Mrs. Arable,
“you hang on tight! You hang on very tight. Hear me? ”
“And don’t get lost! ” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“And don’t get dirty! ”
“Don’t get overheated!” said their mother.
“Watch out for pickpockets!” cautioned their fa-
“And don’t cross the race track when the horses are
coming!” cried Mrs. Zuckerman.
The children grabbed each other by the hand and
danced off in the direction of the merry-go-round,
toward the wonderful music and the wonderful adven-
ture and the wonderful excitement, into the wonderful
midway where there would be no parents to guard them
and guide them, and where they could be happy and
free and do as they pleased. Mrs. Arable stood quietly
Uncle 1 3 3
and watched them go. Then she sighed. Then she blew
“Do you really think it’s all right?” she asked.
“Well, they’ve got to grow up some time,” said Mr.
Arable. “And a fair is a good place to start, I guess.”
While Wilbur was being unloaded and taken out of
his crate and into his new pigpen, crowds gathered to
watch. They stared at the sign ZUCKERMAN’S FA-
MOUS PIG. Wilbur stared back and tried to look
extra good. He was pleased with his new home. The
pen was grassy, and it was shaded from the sun by a
Charlotte, watching her chance, scrambled out of
the crate and climbed a post to the under side of the
roof. Nobody noticed her.
Templeton, not wishing to come out in broad day-
light, stayed quietly under the straw at the bottom of
the crate. Mr. Zuckerman poured some skim milk into
Wilbur’s trough, pitched clean straw into his pen, and
then he and Mrs. Zuckerman and the Arables walked
away toward the cattle barn to look at purebred cows
and to see the sights. Mr. Zuckerman particularly
wanted to look at tractors. Mrs. Zuckerman wanted to
see a deep freeze. Lurvy wandered off by himself, hop-
ing to meet friends and have some fun on the midway.
' 1 34 Charlotte's W eb
As soon as the people were gone, Charlotte spoke to
“It’s a good thing you can’t see what I see,” she said.
“What do you see?” asked Wilbur.
“There’s a pig in the next pen and he’s enormous.
I’m afraid he’s much bigger than you are.”
“Maybe he’s older than I am, and has had more time
to grow,” suggested Wilbur. Tears began to come to
“I’ll drop down and have a closer look,” Charlotte
said. Then she crawled along a beam till she was di-
rectly over the next pen. She let herself down on a drag-
line until she hung in the air just in front of the big
“May I have your name?” she asked, politely.
The pig stared at her. “No name,” he said in a big,
hearty voice. “Just call me Uncle.”
“Very well, Uncle,” replied Charlotte. “What is the
date of your birth? Are you a spring pig?”
“Sure I’m a spring pig,” replied Uncle. “What did
you think I was, a spring chicken? Haw, haw — that’s a
good one, eh, Sister?”
“Mildly funny,” said Charlotte. “I’ve heard funnier
ones, though. Glad to have met you, and now I must be
She ascended slowly and returned to Wilbur’s pen.
“He claims he’s a spring pig,” reported Charlotte,
“and perhaps he is. One thing is certain, he has a most
unattractive personality. He is too familiar, too noisy,
and he cracks weak jokes. Also, he’s not anywhere near
as clean as you are, nor as pleasant. I took quite a dis-
like to him in our brief interview. He’s going to be a
hard pig to beat, though, Wilbur, on account of his size
and weight. But with me helping you, it can be done.”
“When are you going to spin a web?” asked Wilbur.
“This afternoon, late, if I’m not too tired,” said
136 Charlotte's Web
Charlotte. “The least thing tires me these days. I don’t
seem to have the energy I once had. My age, I guess.”
Wilbur looked at his friend. She looked rather swol-
len and she seemed listless.
“I’m awfully sorry to hear that you’re feeling poorly,
Charlotte,” he said. “Perhaps if you spin a web and
catch a couple of flies you’ll feel better.”
“Perhaps,” she said, wearily. “But I feel like the end
of a long day.” Clinging upside down to the ceiling, she
settled down for a nap, leaving Wilbur very much wor-
All morning people wandered past Wilbur’s pen.
Dozens and dozens of strangers stopped to stare at him
and to admire his silky white coat, his curly tail, his kind
and radiant expression. Then they would move on to
the next pen where the bigger pig lay. Wilbur heard
several people make favorable remarks about Uncle’s
great size. He couldn’t help overhearing these remarks,
and he couldn’t help worrying. “And now, with Char-
lotte not feeling well . . .” he thought. “Oh, dear! ”
All morning Templeton slept quietly under the
straw. The day grew fiercely hot. At noon the Zucker-
mans and the Arables returned to the pigpen. Then, a
few minutes later, Fern and Avery showed up. Fern
had a monkey doll in her arms and was eating Cracker-
jack. Avery had a balloon tied to his ear and was chew-
ing a candied apple. The children were hot and dirty.
Uncle 1 3 7
“Isn’t it hot?” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“It’s terribly hot,” said Mrs. Arable, fanning herself
with an advertisement of a deep freeze.
One by one they climbed into the truck and opened
lunch boxes. The sun beat down on everything. No-
body seemed hungry.
“When are the judges going to decide about Wil-
bur?” asked Mrs. Zuckerman.
“Not till tomorrow,” said Mr. Zuckerman.
Lurvy appeared, carrying an Indian blanket that he
“That’s just what we need,” said Avery. “A blanket.”
“Of course it is,” replied Lurvy. And he spread the
blanket across the sideboards of the truck so that it was
like a little tent. The children sat in the shade, under the
blanket, and felt better.
After lunch, they stretched out and fell asleep.
Chapter XV III
The Cool of the Evening
I N THE cool of the evening, when shadows dark-
ened the Fair Grounds, Templeton crept from the
crate and looked around. Wilbur lay asleep in the
straw. Charlotte was building a web. Templeton’s
keen nose detected many fine smells in the air. The rat
was hungry and thirsty. He decided to go exploring.
Without saying anything to anybody, he started off.
“Bring me back a word!” Charlotte called after him.
“I shall be writing tonight for the last time.”
The rat mumbled something to himself and disap-
peared into the shadows. He did not like being treated
like a messenger boy.
After the heat of the day, the evening came as a wel-
come relief to all. The Ferris wheel was lighted now. It
went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as
high as by day. There were lights on the midway, and
you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines
and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of
the man in the beano booth calling numbers.
The children felt refreshed after their nap. Fern met
The Cool of the Evening 1 39
her friend Henry Fussy, and he invited her to ride with
him in the Ferris wheel. He even bought a ticket for
her, so it didn’t cost her anything. When Mrs. Arable
happened to look up into the starry sky and saw her
little daughter sitting with Henry Fussy and going
higher and higher into the air, and saw how happy Fern
looked, she just shook her head. “My, my!” she said.
“Henry Fussy. Think of that!”
Templeton kept out of sight. In the tall grass behind
the cattle bam he found a folded newspaper. Inside it
were leftovers from somebody’s lunch: a deviled ham
sandwich, a piece of Swiss cheese, part of a hard-boiled
egg, and the core of a wormy apple. The rat crawled
in and ate everything. Then he tore a word out of the
paper, rolled it up, and started back to Wilbur’s pen.
Charlotte had her web almost finished when Temple-
ton returned, carrying the newspaper clipping. She had
left a space in the middle of the web. At this hour, no
people were around the pigpen, so the rat and the
spider and the pig were by themselves.
140 Charlotte’s Web
“I hope you brought a good one,” Charlotte said. “It
is the last word I shall ever write.”
“Here,” said Templeton, unrolling the paper.
“What does it say?” asked Charlotte. “You’ll have to
read it for me.”
“It says ‘Humble,’ ” replied the rat.
“Humble?” said Charlotte. “ ‘Humble’ has two
meanings. It means ‘not proud’ and it means ‘near the
ground.’ That’s Wilbur all over. He’s not proud and
he’s near the ground.”
“Well, I hope you’re satisfied,” sneered the rat. “I’m
not going to spend all my time fetching and carrying.
I came to this Fair to enjoy myself, not to deliver pa-
“You’ve been very helpful,” Charlotte said. “Run
along, if you want to see more of the Fair.”
The rat grinned. “I’m going to make a night of it,”
he said. “The old sheep was right — this Fair is a rat’s
paradise. What eating! And what drinking! And every-
where good hiding and good hunting. Bye, bye, my
humble Wilbur! Fare thee well, Charlotte, you old
schemer! This will be a night to remember in a rat’s
He vanished into the shadows.
Charlotte went back to her work. It was quite dark
now. In the distance, fireworks began going off — rock-
ets, scattering fiery balls in the sky. By the time the
The Cool of the Evening 141
Arables and the Zuckermans and Lurvy returned from
the grandstand, Charlotte had finished her web. The
word HUMBLE was woven neatly in the center. No-
body noticed it in the darkness. Everyone was tired
Fern and Avery climbed into the truck and lay
down. They pulled the Indian blanket over them.
Lurvy gave Wilbur a forkful of fresh straw. Mr.
Arable patted him. “Time for us to go home,” he said
to the pig. “See you tomorrow.”
The grownups climbed slowly into the truck and
Wilbur heard the engine start and then heard the truck
moving away in low speed. He would have felt lonely
and homesick, had Charlotte not been with him. He
142 Charlotte's Web
never felt lonely when she was near. In the distance he
could still hear the music of the merry-go-round.
As he was dropping off to sleep he spoke to Char-
“Sing me that song again, about the dung and the
dark,” he begged.
“Not tonight,” she said in a low voice. “I’m too
tired.” Her voice didn’t seem to come from her web.
“Where are your” asked Wilbur. “I can’t see you.
Are you on your web?”
“I’m back here,” she answered. “Up in this back cor-
“Why aren’t you on your web?” asked Wilbur.
“You almost never leave your web.”
“I’ve left it tonight,” she said.
Wilbur closed his eyes. “Charlotte,” he said, after a
while, “do you really think Zuckerman will let me live
and not kill me when the cold weather comes? Do you
really think so?”
“Of course,” said Charlotte. “You are a famous pig
and you are a good pig. Tomorrow you will probably
win a prize. The whole world will hear about you.
Zuckerman will be proud and happy to own such a pig.
You have nothing to fear, Wilbur — nothing to worry
about. Maybe you’ll live forever — who knows? And
now, go to sleep.”
For a while there was no sound. Then Wilbur’s
The Cool of the Evening 143
“What are you doing up there, Charlotte?”
“Oh, making something,” she said. “Making some-
thing, as usual.”
“Is it something for me?” asked Wilbur.
“No,” said Charlotte. “It’s something for me , for a
“Please tell me what it is,” begged Wilbur.
“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she said. “When the
first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and
the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows
and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the
highway, you look up here and I’ll show you some-
thing. I will show you my masterpiece.”
Before she finished the sentence, Wilbur was asleep.
She could tell by the sound of his breathing that he was
sleeping peacefully, deep in the straw.
Miles away, at the Arables’ house, the men sat around
the kitchen table eating a dish of canned peaches and
talking over the events of the day. Upstairs, Avery was
already in bed and asleep. Mrs. Arable was tucking
Fern into bed.
“Did you have a good time at the Fair?” she asked as
she kissed her daughter.
Fern nodded. “I had the best time I have ever had
anywhere or any time in all of my whole life.”
“Well!” said Mrs. Arable. “Isn’t that nice!”
The Egg Sac
N EXT morning when the first light came into
the sky and the sparrows stirred in the
trees, when the cows rattled their chains
and the rooster crowed and the early auto-
mobiles went whispering along the road, Wilbur awoke
and looked for Charlotte. He saw her up overhead in a
corner near the back of his pen. She was very quiet.
Her eight legs were spread wide. She seemed to have
shrunk during the night. Next to her, attached to the
ceiling, Wilbur saw a curious object. It was a sort of
sac, or cocoon. It was peach-colored and looked as
though it were made of cotton candy.
“Are you awake, Charlotte?” he said softly.
“Yes,” came the answer.
“What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it? ”
“I did indeed,” replied Charlotte in a weak voice.
“Is it a plaything?”
“Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my
“I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur.
The Egg Sac 145
“That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means
‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work — the finest
thing I have ever made.”
“What’s inside it?” asked Wilbur. “Eggs?”
“Five hundred and fourteen of them,” she replied.
“Five hundred and four teen}” said Wilbur. “You’re
“No, I’m not. I counted them. I got started counting,
so I kept on — just to keep my mind occupied.”
“It’s a perfectly beautiful egg sac,” said Wilbur,
feeling as happy as though he had constructed it him-
“Yes, it is pretty,” replied Charlotte, patting the sac
with her two front legs. “Anyway, I can guarantee that
it is strong. It’s made out of the toughest material I
have. It is also waterproof. The eggs are inside and will
be warm and dry.”
1 4 6 Charlotte's W eh
“Charlotte,” said Wilbur dreamily, “are you really
going to have five hundred and fourteen children?”
“If nothing happens, yes,” she said. “Of course, they
won’t show up till next spring.” Wilbur noticed that
Charlotte’s voice sounded sad.
“What makes you sound so down-hearted? I should
think you’d be terribly happy about this.”
“Oh, don’t pay any attention to me,” said Charlotte.
“I just don’t have much pep any more. I guess I feel sad
because I won’t ever see my children.”
“What do you mean you won’t see your children!
Of coarse you will. We’ll all see them. It’s going to be
simply wonderful next spring in the barn cellar with
five hundred and fourteen baby spiders running around
all over the place. And the geese will have a new set of
goslings, and the sheep will have their new lambs . . .”
“Maybe,” said Charlotte quietly. “However, I have
a feeling I’m not going to see the results of last night’s
efforts. I don’t feel good at all. I think I’m languishing,
to tell you the truth.”
Wilbur didn’t understand the word “languish” and
he hated to bother Charlotte by asking her to explain.
But he was so worried he felt he had to ask.
“What does ‘languishing’ mean?”
“It means I’m slowing up, feeling my age. I’m not
young any more, Wilbur. But I don’t want you to
worry about me. This is your big day today. Look at
my web — doesn’t it show up well with the dew on it?”
The Egg Sac 147
Charlotte’s web never looked more beautiful than it
looked this morning. Each strand held dozens of bright
drops of early morning dew. The light from the east
struck it and made it all plain and clear. It was a perfect
piece of designing and building. In another hour or
two, a steady stream of people would pass by, admiring
it, and reading it, and looking at Wilbur, and marvel-
ing at the miracle.
As Wilbur was studying the web, a pair of whiskers
and a sharp face appeared. Slowly Templeton dragged
himself across the pen and threw himself down in a
“I’m back,” he said in a husky voice. “What a night! ”
The rat was swollen to twice his normal size. His
stomach was as big around as a jelly jar.
148 Charlotte's Web
“What a night!” he repeated, hoarsely. “What feast-
ing and carousing! A real gorge! I must have eaten the
remains of thirty lunches. Never have I seen such leav-
ings, and everything well-ripened and seasoned with
the passage of time and the heat of the day. Oh, it was
rich, my friends, rich! ”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Char-
lotte in disgust. “It would serve you right if you had an
acute attack of indigestion.”
“Don’t worry about my stomach,” snarled Temple-
ton. “It can handle anything. And by the way, I’ve got
some bad news. As I came past that pig next door — the
one that calls himself Uncle — I noticed a blue tag on
the front of his pen. That means he has won first prize.
I guess you’re licked, Wilbur. You might as well relax
— nobody is going to hang any medal on you. Further-
more, I wouldn’t be surprised if Zuckerman changes
his mind about you. Wait till he gets hankering for
some fresh pork and smoked ham and crisp bacon! He’ll
take the knife to you, my boy.”
“Be still, Templeton!” said Charlotte. “You’re too
stuffed and bloated to know what you’re saying. Don’t
pay any attention to him, Wilbur! ”
Wilbur tried not to think about what the rat had just
said. He decided to change the subject.
“Templeton,” said Wilbur, “if you weren’t so dopey,
you would have noticed that Charlotte has made an egg
The Egg Sac 149
sac. She is going to become a mother. For your infor-
mation, there are five hundred and fourteen eggs in that
peachy little sac.”
“Is this true?” asked the rat, eyeing the sac suspi-
“Yes, it’s true,” sighed Charlotte.
“Congratulations! ” murmured Templeton. “This has
been a night!” He closed his eyes, pulled some straw
over himself, and dropped off into a deep sleep. Wil-
bur and Charlotte were glad to be rid of him for a
At nine o’clock, Mr. Arable’s truck rolled into the
Fair Grounds and came to a stop at Wilbur’s pen.
Everybody climbed out.
“Look!” cried Fern. “Look at Charlotte’s web! Look
what it says!”
The grownups and the children joined hands and
stood there, studying the new sign.
“ ‘Humble,’ ” said Mr. Z'uckerman. “Now isn’t that
just the word for Wilbur!”
Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web
had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into their
faces. He looked very humble and very grateful. Fern
winked at Charlotte. Lurvy soon got busy. He poured
a bucket of warm slops into the trough, and while Wil-
1 50 Charlotte’s W eb
bur ate his breakfast Lurvy scratched him gently with
a smooth stick.
“Wait a minute!” cried Avery. “Look at this!” He
pointed to the blue tag on Uncle’s pen. “This pig has
won first prize already.”
The Zuckermans and the Arables stared at the tag.
Mrs. Zuckerman began to cry. Nobody said a word.
They just stared at the tag. Then they stared at Uncle.
Then they stared at the tag again. Lurvy took out an
enormous handkerchief and blew his nose very loud —
so loud, in fact, that the noise was heard by stableboys
over at the horse barn.
“Can I have some money?” asked Fern. “I want to
go out on the midway.”
“You stay right where you are!” said her mother.
Tears came to Fern’s eyes.
“What’s everybody crying about?” asked Mr. Zuck-
erman. “Let’s get busy! Edith, bring the buttermilk! ”
Mrs. Zuckerman wiped her eyes with her handker-
chief. She went to the truck and came back with a gal-
lon jar of buttermilk.
“Bath time!” said Zuckerman, cheerfully. He and
Mrs. Zuckerman and Avery climbed into Wilbur’s pen.
Avery slowly poured buttermilk on Wilbur’s head and
back, and as it trickled down his sides and cheeks, Mr.
and Mrs. Zuckerman rubbed it into his hair and skin.
Passersbv stopped to watch. Pretty soon quite a crowd
The Egg Sac 15 1
had gathered. Wilbur grew beautifully white and
smooth. The morning sun shone through his pink ears.
“He isn’t as big as that pig next door,” remarked one
bystander, “but he’s cleaner. That’s what I like.”
“So do I,” said another man.
“He’s humble, too,” said a woman, reading the sign
on the web.
Everybody who visited the pigpen had a good word
to say about Wilbur. Everyone admired the web. And
of course nobody noticed Charlotte.
Suddenly a voice was heard on the loud speaker.
“Attention, please!” it said. “Will Mr. Homer Zuck-
erman bring his famous pig to the judges’ booth in front
of the grandstand. A special award will be made there
in twenty minutes. Everyone is invited to attend. Crate
your pig, please, Mr. Zuckerman, and report to the
judges’ booth promptly!”
For a moment after this announcement, the Arables
and the Zuckermans were unable to speak or move.
Then Avery picked up a handful of straw and threw it
high in the air and gave a loud yell. The straw fluttered
down like confetti into Fern’s hair. Mr. Zuckerman
hugged Mrs. Zuckerman. Mr. Arable kissed Mrs. Ara-
ble. Avery kissed Wilbur. Lurvy shook hands with
everybody. Fern hugged her mother. Avery hugged
Fern. Mrs. Arable hugged Mrs. Zuckerman.
Up overhead, in the shadows of the ceiling, Char-
T he Egg Sac 1 5 3
lotte crouched unseen, her front legs encircling her egg
sac. Her heart was not beating as strongly as usual and
she felt weary and old, but she was sure at last that she
had saved Wilbur’s life, and she felt peaceful and con-
“We have no time to lose!” shouted Mr. Zucker-
man. “Lurvy, help with the crate!”
“Can I have some money?” asked Fern.
“You wait ] ” said Mrs. Arable. “Can’t you see every-
body is busy?”
“Put that empty buttermilk jar into the truck!” com-
manded Mr. Arable. Avery grabbed the jar and rushed
to the truck.
“Does my hair look all right?” asked Mrs. Zucker-
“Looks fine,” snapped Mr. Zuckerman, as he and
Lurvy set the crate down in front of Wilbur.
“You didn’t even look at my hair! ” said Mrs. Zuck-
“You’re all right, Edith,” said Mrs. Arable. “Just
Templeton, asleep in the straw, heard the commo-
tion and awoke. He didn’t know exactly what was
going on, but when he saw the men shoving Wilbur
into the crate he made up his mind to go along. He
watched his chance and when no one was looking he
154 Charlotte's Web
crept into the crate and buried himself in the straw at
“All ready, boys!” cried Mr. Zuckerman. “Let’s go!”
He and Mr. Arable and Lurvy and Avery grabbed the
crate and boosted it over the side of the pen and up
into the truck. Fern jumped aboard and sat on top of
the crate. She still had straw in her hair and looked very
pretty and excited. Mr. Arable started the motor.
Everyone climbed in, and off they drove to the judge’s
booth in front of the grandstand.
As they passed the Ferris wheel, Fern gazed up at it
and wished she were in the topmost car with Henry
Fussy at her side.
The Hour of Tnumvh
S PECIAL announcement!” said the loud speaker
in a pompous voice. “The management of the
I Fair takes great pleasure in presenting Mr.
Homer L. Zuckerman and his famous pig. The
truck bearing this extraordinary animal is now ap-
proaching the infield. Kindly stand back and give the
truck room to proceed! In a few moments the pig will
be unloaded in the special judging ring in front of the
grandstand, where a special award will be made. Will
the crowd please make way and let the truck pass.
Wilbur trembled when he heard this speech. He felt
happy but dizzy. The truck crept along slowly irt low
speed. Crowds of people surrounded it, and Mr. Arable
had to drive very carefully in order not to run over
anybody. At last he managed to reach the judges’ stand.
Avery jumped out and lowered the tailgate.
“I’m scared to death,” whispered Mrs. Zuckerman.
“Hundreds of people are looking at us.”
“Cheer up,” replied Mrs. Arable, “this is fun.”
156 Charlotte's Web
“Unload your pig, please!” said the loud speaker.
“All together, now, boys!” said Mr. Zuckerman. Sev-
eral men stepped forward from the crowd to help lift
the crate. Avery was the busiest helper of all.
“Tuck your shirt in, Avery! ” cried Mrs. Zuckerman.
“And tighten your belt. Your pants are coming down.”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?” replied Avery in disgust.
“Look!” cried Fern, pointing. “There’s Henry!”
“Don’t shout, Fern!” said her mother. “And don’t
“Can’t I please have some money?” asked Fern.
“Henry invited me to go on the Ferris wheel again,
only I don’t think he has any money left. He ran out
Mrs. Arable opened her handbag. “Here,” she said.
“Here is forty cents. Now don’t get lost! And be back
at our regular meeting place by the pigpen very soon!”
Fern raced off, ducking and dodging through the
crowd, in search of Henry.
“The Zuckerman pig is now being taken from his
crate,” boomed the voice of the loud speaker. “Stand
by for an announcement! ”
Templeton crouched under the straw at the bottom
of the crate. “What a lot of nonsense!” muttered the
rat. “What a lot of fuss about nothing!”
Over in the pigpen, silent and alone, Charlotte rested.
Her two front legs embraced the egg sac. Charlotte
The Hour of Triumph 157
could hear everything that was said on the loud speaker.
The words gave her courage. This was her hour of
As Wilbur came out of the crate, the crowd clapped
and cheered. Mr. Zuckerman took off his cap and
bowed. Lurvy pulled his big handkerchief from his
pocket and wiped the sweat from the back of his neck.
Avery knelt in the dirt by Wilbur’s side, busily strok-
ing him and showing off. Mrs. Zuckerman and Mrs.
Arable stood on the running board of the truck.
“Ladeez and gentlemen,” said the loud speaker, “we
now present Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman’s distinguished
pig. The fame of this unique animal has spread to the
far corners of the earth, attracting many valuable tour-
ists to our great State. Many of you will recall that
never-to-be-forgotten day last summer when the
writing appeared mysteriously on the spider’s web in
Mr. Zuckerman’s barn, calling the attention of all and
sundry to the fact that this pig was completely out of
the ordinary. This miracle has never been fully ex-
plained, although learned men have visited the Zucker-
man pigpen to study and observe the phenomenon. In
the last analysis, we simply know that we are dealing
with supernatural forces here, and we should all feel
proud and grateful. In the words of the spider’s web,
ladies and gentlemen, this is some pig.”
1 58 Charlotte' s W eb
Wilbur blushed. He stood perfectly still and tried
to look his best.
“This magnificent animal,” continued the loud
speaker, “is truly terrific. Look at him, ladies and
gentlemen! Note the smoothness and whiteness of the
coat, observe the spotless skin, the healthy pink glow
of ears and snout.”
“It’s the buttermilk,” whispered Mrs. Arable to
“Note the general radiance of this animal! Then re-
member the day when the word ‘radiant’ appeared
clearly on the web. Whence came this mysterious
writing? Not from the spider, we can rest assured of
that. Spiders are very clever at weaving their webs, but
needless to say spiders cannot write.”
“Oh, they can’t, can’t they?” murmured Charlotte
“Ladeez and gentlemen,” continued the loud
speaker, “I must not take any more of your valuable
time. On behalf of the governors of the Fair, I have the
honor of awarding a special prize of twenty-five dollars
to Mr. Zuckerman, together with a handsome bronze
medal suitably engraved, in token of our appreciation
of the part played by this pig — this radiant, this terrific,
this humble pig — in attracting so many visitors to our
great County Fair.”
Wilbur had been feeling dizzier and dizzier through
The Hour of Triumph 159
this long, complimentary speech. When he heard the
crowd begin to cheer and clap again, he suddenly
fainted away. His legs collapsed, his mind went blank,
and he fell to the ground, unconscious.
“What’s wrong?” asked the loud speaker. “What’s
going on, Zuckerman? What’s the trouble with your
Avery was kneeling by Wilbur’s head, stroking him.
Mr. Zuckerman was dancing about, fanning him with
“He’s all right,” cried Mr. Zuckerman. “He gets
these spells. He’s modest and can’t stand praise.”
“Well, we can’t give a prize to a dead pig,” said the
loud speaker. “It’s never been done.”
“He isn’t dead,” hollered Zuckerman. “He’s fainted.
He gets embarrassed easily. Run for some water,
Lurvy sprang from the judges’ ring and disappeared.
Templeton poked his head from the straw. He
noticed that the end of Wilbur’s tail was within reach.
Templeton grinned. “I’ll tend to this,” he chuckled.
He took Wilbur’s tail in his mouth and bit it, just as
hard as he could bite. The pain revived Wilbur. In a
flash he was back on his feet.
“Ouch!” he screamed.
“Hoorray!” yelled the crowd. “He’s up! The pig’s
up! Good work, Zuckerman! That’s some pig! ” Every-
one was delighted. Mr. Zuckerman was the most
pleased of all. He sighed with relief. Nobody had seen
Templeton. The rat had done his work well.
And now one of the judges climbed into the ring
with the prizes. He handed Mr. Zuckerman two ten
dollar bills and a five dollar bill. Then he tied the medal
around Wilbur’s neck. Then he shook hands with Mr.
Zuckerman while Wilbur blushed. Avery put out his
hand and the judge shook hands with him, too. The
crowd cheered. A photographer took Wilbur’s picture.
A great feeling of happiness swept over the Zucker-
mans and the Arables. This was the greatest moment in
Mr. Zuckerman’s life. It is deeply satisfying to win a
prize in front of a lot of people.
As Wilbur was being shoved back into the crate,
Lurvy came charging through the crowd carrying a
pail of water. His eyes had a wild look. Without hesi-
tating a second, he dashed the water at Wilbur. In his
excitement he missed his aim, and the water splashed
all over Mr. Zuckerman and Avery. They got soaking
“For goodness’ sake!” bellowed Mr. Zuckerman,
who was really drenched. “What ails you, Lurvy?
Can’t you see the pig is all right?”
“You asked for water,” said Lurvy meekly.
“I didn’t ask for a shower bath,” said Mr. Zucker-
man. The crowd roared with lausrhter. Finally Mr.
Zuckerman had to laugh, too. And of course Avery was
tickled to find himself so wet, and he immediately
1 6 2 Charlotte’s W eh
started to act like a clown. He pretended he was taking
a shower bath; he made faces and danced around and
rubbed imaginary soap under his armpits. Then he
dried himself with an imaginary towel.
“Avery, stop it!” cried his mother. “Stop showing
But the crowd loved it. Avery heard nothing but the
applause. He liked being a clown in a ring, with every-
body watching, in front of a grandstand. When he dis-
covered there was still a little water left in the bottom
of the pail, he raised the pail high in the air and dumped
the water on himself and made faces. The children in
the grandstand screamed with appreciation.
At last things calmed down. Wilbur was loaded into
the truck. Avery was led from the ring by his mother
and placed on the seat of the truck to dry off. The
truck, driven by Mr. Arable, crawled slowly back to
the pigpen. Avery’s wet trousers made a big wet spot
on the seat.
HARLOTTE and Wilbur were alone. The
medal still hung from his neck; by looking out of the
corner of his eye he could see it.
“Charlotte,” said Wilbur after a while, “why are
you so quiet?”
“I like to sit still,” she said. “I’ve always been rather
“Yes, but you seem specially so today. Do you feel
“A little tired, perhaps. But I feel peaceful. Your
success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree,
my success. Your future is assured. You will live, secure
and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These
autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves
will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will
come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy
the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great
families had gone to look for Fern. Temple-
ton was asleep. Wilbur lay resting after the
excitement and strain of the ceremony. His
164 Charlotte's Web
deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever.
Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will
melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return
and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will
blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will
be yours to enjoy, Wilbur — this lovely world, these
precious days . . .”
Charlotte stopped. A moment later a tear came to
Wilbur’s eye. “Oh, Charlotte,” he said. “To think that
when I first met you I thought you were cruel and
When he recovered from his emotion, he spoke
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I
don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte.
“That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs
for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life,
anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.
A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess,
with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you,
perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven
knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
“Well,” said Wilbur. “I’m no good at making
speeches. I haven’t got your gift for words. But you
have saved me, Charlotte, and I would gladly give my
life for you — I really would.”
Last Day 165
“I’m sure you would. And I thank you for your
“Charlotte,” said Wilbur. “We’re all going home
today. The Fair is almost over. Won’t it be wonderful
to be back home in the barn cellar again with the sheep
and the geese? Aren’t you anxious to get home?”
For a moment Charlotte said nothing. Then she
spoke in a voice so low Wilbur could hardly hear the
“I will not be going back to the bam,” she said.
Wilbur leapt to his feet. “Not going back?” he cried.
“Charlotte, what are you talking about?”
“I’m done for,” she replied. “In a day or two I’ll be
dead. I haven’t even strength enough to climb down
into the crate. I doubt if I have enough silk in my spin-
nerets to lower me to the ground.”
Hearing this, Wilbur threw himself down in an
agony of pain and sorrow. Great sobs racked his body.
He heaved and grunted with desolation. “Charlotte,”
he moaned. “Charlotte! My true friend!”
“Come now, let’s not make a scene,” said the spider.
“Be quiet, Wilbur. Stop thrashing about!”
“But I can’t stand it,” shouted Wilbur. “I won’t
leave you here alone to die. If you’re going to stay here
I shall stay, too.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Charlotte. “You can’t
stay here. Zuckerman and Lurvy and John Arable and
1 66 Charlotte’s Web
the others will be back any minute now, and they’ll
shove you into that crate and away you’ll go. Besides,
it wouldn’t make any sense for you to stay. There
would be no one to feed you. The Fair Grounds will
soon be empty and deserted.”
Wilbur was in a panic. He raced round and round
the pen. Suddenly he had an idea — he thought of the
egg sac and the five hundred and fourteen little spiders
that would hatch in the spring. If Charlotte herself
was unable to go home to the barn, at least he must
take her children along.
Wilbur rushed to the front of his pen. He put his
front feet up on the top board and gazed around. In
the distance he saw the Arables and the Zuckermans
approaching. He knew he would have to act quickly.
“Where’s Templeton?” he demanded.
“He’s in that corner, under the straw, asleep,” said
Wilbur rushed over, pushed his strong snout under
the rat, and tossed him into the air.
“Templeton!” screamed Wilbur. “Pay attention!”
The rat, surprised out of a sound sleep, looked first
dazed then disgusted.
“What kind of monkeyshine is this?” he growled.
“Can’t a rat catch a wink of sleep without being rudely
popped into the air?”
“Listen to me!” cried Wilbur. “Charlotte is very ill.
Last Day 167
She has only a short time to live. She cannot accom-
pany us home, because of her condition. Therefore, it
is absolutely necessary that I take her egg sac with me.
I can’t reach it, and I can’t climb. You are the only one
that can get it. There’s not a second to be lost. The
people are coming — they’ll be here in no time. Please,
please, please , Templeton, climb up and get the egg
The rat yawned. He straightened his whiskers. Then
he looked up at the egg sac.
“So!” he said, in disgust. “So it’s old Templeton to
the rescue again, is it? Templeton do this, Templeton
do that, Templeton please run down to the dump and
get me a magazine clipping, Templeton please lend me
a piece of string so I can spin a web.”
“Oh, hurry!” said Wilbur. “Hurry up, Templeton!”
But the rat was in no hurry. He began imitating
“So it’s ‘Hurry up, Templeton,’ is it?” he said. “Ho,
ho. And what thanks do I ever get for these services, I
would like to know? Never a kind word for old Tem-
pleton, only abuse and wisecracks and side remarks.
Never a kind word for a rat.”
“Templeton,” said Wilbur in desperation, “if you
don’t stop talking and get busy, all will be lost, and I
will die of a broken heart. Please climb up!”
Templeton lay back in the straw. Lazily he placed
his forepaws behind his head and crossed his knees, in
an attitude of complete relaxation.
“Die of a broken heart,” he mimicked. “How touch-
ing! My, my! I notice that it’s always me you come to
when in trouble. But I’ve never heard of anyone’s heart
breaking on my account. Oh, no. Who cares anything
about old Templeton?”
“Get up!” screamed Wilbur. “Stop acting like a
Templeton grinned and lay still. “Who made trip
after trip to the dump?” he asked. “Why, it was old
Templeton!' Who saved Charlotte’s life by scaring that
Arable boy away with a rotten goose egg? Bless my
soul, I believe it was old Templeton. Who bit your
tail and got you back on your feet this morning after
you had fainted in front of the crowd? Old Temple-
ton. Has it ever occurred to you that I’m sick of run-
ning errands and doing favors? What do you think
I am, anyway, a rat-of-all-work?”
Wilbur was desperate. The people were coming.
And the rat was failing him. Suddenly he remembered
Templeton’s fondness for food.
“Templeton,” he said, “I will make you a solemn
promise. Get Charlotte’s egg sac for me, and from now
on I will let you eat first, when Lurvy slops me. I will
let you have your choice of everything in the trough
and I won’t touch a thing until you’re through.”
The rat sat up. “You mean that?” he said.
“I promise. I cross my heart.”
“All right, it’s a deal,” said the rat. He walked to
the wall and started to climb. His stomach was still
swollen from last night’s gorge. Groaning and com-
plaining, he pulled himself slowly to the ceiling. He
crept along till he reached the egg sac. Charlotte
moved aside for him. She was dying, but she still had
strength enough to move a little. Then Templeton
bared his long ugly teeth and began snipping the threads
that fastened the sac to the ceiling. Wilbur watched
170 Charlotte’s Web
“Use extreme care!” he said. “I don’t want a single
one of those eggs harmed.”
“Thith thtuff thticks in my mouth,” complained the
rat. “It’th worth than caramel candy.”
But Templeton worked away at the job, and man-
aged to cut the sac adrift and carry it to the ground,
where he dropped it in front of Wilbur. Wilbur
heaved a great sigh of relief.
“Thank you, Templeton,” he said. “I will never
forget this as long as I live.”
“Neither will I,” said the rat, picking his teeth. “I
feel as though I’d eaten a spool of thread. Well, home
Templeton crept into the crate and buried himself
in the straw. He got out of sight just in time. Lurvy
and John Arable and Mr. Zuckerman came along at
that moment, followed by Mrs. Arable and Mrs. Zuck-
erman and Avery and Fern. Wilbur had already de-
cided how he would carry the egg sac — there was only
one way possible. He carefully took the little bundle
in his mouth and held it there on top of his tongue. He
remembered what Charlotte had told him — that the
sac was waterproof and strong. It felt funny on his
tongue and made him drool a bit. And of course he
couldn’t say anything. But as he was being shoved into
the crate, he looked up at Charlotte and gave her a
Last Day 1 7 1
wink. She knew he was saying good-bye in the only
way he could. And she knew her children were safe.
“Good-bye!” she whispered. Then she summoned
all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him.
She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris
wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were
being loaded into vans and the entertainers were pack-
ing up their belongings and driving away in their
trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon
deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and
forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash.
Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited
the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most
important part of all. No one was with her when she
A W arm Wind
4ND SO Wilbur came home to his beloved
/ % manure pile in the barn cellar. His was a
strange homecoming. Around his neck he
JL \_wore a medal of honor; in his mouth he
held a sac of spider’s eggs. There is no place like home,
Wilbur thought, as he placed Charlotte’s five hundred
and fourteen unborn children carefully in a safe corner.
The barn smelled good. His friends the sheep and the
geese were glad to see him back.
The geese gave him a noisy welcome.
“Congratu-congratu-congratulations!” they cried.
Mr. Zuckerman took the medal from Wilbur’s neck
and hung it on a nail over the pigpen, where visitors
could examine it. Wilbur himself could look at it
whenever he wanted to.
In the days that followed, he was very happy. He
grew to a great size. He no longer worried about being
killed, for he knew that Mr. Zuckerman would keep
him as long as he lived. Wilbur often thought of Char-
A Warm Wind 173
lotte. A few strands of her old web still hung in the
doorway. Every day Wilbur would stand and look at
the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his
throat. No one had ever had such a friend — so affec-
tionate, so loyal, and so skillful.
The autumn days grew shorter, Lurvy brought the
squashes and pumpkins in from the garden and piled
them on the barn floor, where they wouldn’t get nipped
on frosty nights. The maples and birches turned bright
colors and the wind shook them and they dropped
their leaves one by one to the ground. Under the wild
apple trees in the pasture, the red little apples lay thick
on the ground, and the sheep gnawed them and the
geese gnawed them and foxes came in the night and
sniffed them. One evening, just before Christmas, snow
began falling. It covered house and barn and fields and
woods. Wilbur had never seen snow before. When
morning came he went out and plowed the drifts in his
yard, for the fun of it. Fern and Avery arrived, drag-
ging a sled. They coasted down the lane and out onto
the frozen pond in the pasture.
“Coasting is the most fun there is,” said Avery.
“The most fun there is,” retorted Fern, “is when -
the Ferris wheel stops and Henry and I are in the
top car and Henry makes the car swing and we can
see everything for miles and miles and miles.”
“Goodness, are you still thinking about that ol’ Fer-
174 Charlotte’s Web
ris wheel?” said Avery in disgust. “The Fair was weeks
and weeks ago.”
“I think about it all the time,” said Fern, picking
snow from her ear.
After Christmas the thermometer dropped to ten
below zero. Cold settled on the world. The pasture was
bleak and frozen. The cows stayed in the barn all the
time now, except on sunny mornings when they went
out and stood in the barnyard in the lee of the straw
pile. The sheep stayed near the barn, too, for protec-
tion. When they were thirsty they ate snow. The
geese hung around the barnyard the way boys hang
around a drug store, and Mr. Zuckerman fed them com
and turnips to keep them cheerful.
“Many, many, many thanks!” they always said,
when they saw food coming.
Templeton moved indoors when winter came. His
ratty home under the pig trough was too chilly, so he
fixed himself a cozy nest in the barn behind the grain
bins. He lined it with bits of dirty newspapers and
rags, and whenever he found a trinket or a keepsake he
carried it home and stored it there. He continued to
visit Wilbur three times a day, exactly at mealtime,
and Wilbur kept the promise he had made. Wilbur let
the rat eat first. Then, when Templeton couldn’t hold
another mouthful, Wilbur would eat. As a result of
overeating, Templeton grew bigger and fatter than
A Warm Wind
any rat you ever saw. He was gigantic. He was as big
as a young woodchuck.
The old sheep spoke to him about his size one day.
“You would live longer,” said the old sheep, “if you
“Who wants to live forever?” sneered the rat. “I am
naturally a heavy eater and I get untold satisfaction
from the pleasures of the feast.” He patted his stomach,
grinned at the sheep, and crept upstairs to lie down.
All winter Wilbur watched over Charlotte’s egg sac
as though he were guarding his own children. He had
176 Charlotte’s Web
scooped out a special place in the manure for the sac,
next to the board fence. On very cold nights he lay so
that his breath would warm it. For Wilbur, nothing in
life was so important as this small round object — noth-
ing else mattered. Patiently he awaited the end of
winter and the coming of the little spiders. Life is
always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for
something to happen or to hatch. The winter ended
“I heard the frogs today,” said the old sheep one
evening. “Listen! You can hear them now.”
Wilbur stood still and cocked his ears. From the
pond, in shrill chorus, came the voices of hundreds of
“Springtime,” said the old sheep, thoughtfully. “An-
other spring.” As she walked away, Wilbur saw a new
lamb following her. It was only a few hours old.
The snows melted and ran away. The streams and
ditches bubbled and chattered with rushing water. A
sparrow with a streaky breast arrived and sang. The
light strengthened, the mornings came sooner. Almost
every morning there was another new lamb in the
sheepfold. The goose was sitting on nine eggs. The
sky seemed wider and a warm wind blew. The last
remaining strands of Charlotte’s old web floated away
One fine sunny morning, after breakfast, Wilbur
A Warm Wind 177
stood watching his precious sac. He wasn’t thinking of
anything much. As he stood there, he noticed some-
thing move. He stepped closer and stared. A tiny spider
crawled from the sac. It was no bigger than a grain of
sand, no bigger than the head of a pin. Its body was
grey with a black stripe underneath. Its legs were grey
and tan. It looked just like Charlotte.
Wilbur trembled all over when he saw it. The little
spider waved at him. Then Wilbur looked more closely.
Two more little spiders crawled out and waved. They
climbed round and round on the sac, exploring their
new world. Then three more little spiders. Then eight.
Then ten. Charlotte’s children were here at last.
Wilbur’s heart pounded. He began to squeal. Then
he raced in circles, kicking manure into the air. Then
he turned a back flip. Then he planted his front feet
and came to a stop in front of Charlotte’s children.
“Hello, there!” he said.
The first spider said hello, but its voice was so small
Wilbur couldn’t hear it.
“I am an old friend of your mother’s,” said Wilbur.
“I’m glad to see you. Are you all right? Is everything
The little spiders waved their forelegs at him. Wil-
bur could see by the way they acted that they were glad
to see him.
178 Charlotte’s Web
“Is there anything I can get you? Is there anything
The young spiders just waved. For several days and
several nights they crawled here and there, up and
down, around and about, waving at Wilbur, trailing
tiny draglines behind them, and exploring their home.
There were dozens and dozens of them. Wilbur
couldn’t count them, but he knew that he had a great
many new friends. They grew quite rapidly. Soon each
was as big as a BB shot. They made tiny webs near
Then came a quiet morning when Mr. Zuckerman
opened a door on the north side. A warm draft of rising
air blew softly through the barn cellar. The air smelled
of the damp earth, of the spruce woods, of the sweet
springtime. The baby spiders felt the warm updraft.
One spider climbed to the top of the fence. Then it did
something that came as a great surprise to Wilbur. The
spider stood on its head, pointed its spinnerets in the
air, and let loose a cloud of fine silk. The silk formed a
balloon. As Wilbur watched, the spider let go of the
fence and rose into the air.
“Good-bye!” it said, as it sailed through the door-
“Wait a minute!” screamed Wilbur. “Where do
you think you’re going?”
But the spider was already out of sight. Then another
A Warm Wind 179
baby spider crawled to the top of the fence, stood on
its head, made a balloon, and sailed away. Then another
spider. Then another. The air was soon filled with tiny
balloons, each balloon carrying a spider.
Wilbur was frantic. Charlotte’s babies were disap-
pearing at a great rate.
“Come back, children!” he cried.
“Good-bye!” they called. “Good-bye, good-bye!”
At last one little spider took time enough to stop and
talk to Wilbur before making its balloon.
“We’re leaving here on the warm updraft. This is
our moment for setting forth. We are aeronauts and we
180 Charlotte's Web
are going out into the world to make webs for our-
“But where ?” asked Wilbur.
“Wherever the wind takes us. High, low. Near, far.
East, west. North, south. We take to the breeze, we
go as we please.”
“Are all of you going?” asked Wilbur. “You can’t
all go. I would be left alone, with no friends. Your
mother wouldn’t want that to happen, I’m sure.”
The air was now so full of balloonists that the barn
cellar looked almost as though a mist had gathered.
Balloons by the dozen were rising, circling, and drift-
ing away through the door, sailing off on the gentle
wind. Cries of “Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!” came
weakly to Wilbur’s ears. He couldn’t bear to watch
any more. In sorrow he sank to the ground and closed
his eyes. This seemed like the end of the world, to be
deserted by Charlotte’s children. Wilbur cried himself
When he woke it was late afternoon. He looked at
the egg sac. It was empty. He looked into the air. The
balloonists were gone. Then he walked drearily to the
doorway, where Charlotte’s w T eb used to be. He was
standing there, thinking of her, when he heard a small
“Salutations!” it said. “I’m up here.”
“So am I,” said another tiny voice.
A Warm Wind 181
“So am I,” said a third voice. “Three of us are stay-
ing. We like this place, and we like you.”
Wilbur looked up. At the top of the doorway three
small webs were being constructed. On each web,
working busily was one of Charlotte’s daughters.
“Can I take this to mean,” asked Wilbur, “that you
have definitely decided to live here in the barn cellar,
and that I am going to have three friends?”
“You can indeed,” said the spiders.
“What are your names, please?” asked Wilbur,
trembling with joy.
“I’ll tell you my name,” replied the first little spider,
“if you’ll tell me why you are trembling.”
“I’m trembling with joy,” said Wilbur.
“Then my name is Joy,” said the first spider.
“What was my mother’s middle initial?” asked the
“A,” said Wilbur.
“Then my name is Aranea,” said the spider.
“How about me?” asked the third spider. “Will you
just pick out a nice sensible name for me — something
not too long, not too fancy, and not too dumb?”
Wilbur thought hard.
“Nellie?” he suggested.
“Fine, I like that very much,” said the third spider.
“You may call me Nellie.” She daintily fastened her
orb line to the next spoke of the web.
Wilbur’s heart brimmed with happiness. He felt
that he should make a short speech on this very impor-
“Joy! Aranea! Nellie!” he began. “Welcome to the
barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from
which to string your webs. I think it is only fair to tell
you that I was devoted to your mother. I owe my very
life to her. She was brilliant, beautiful, and loyal to the
end. I shall always treasure her memory. To you, her
daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever.”
“I pledge mine,” said Joy.
A Warm Wind
“I do, too,” said Aranea.
“And so do I,” said Nellie, who had just managed to
catch a small gnat.
It was a happy day for Wilbur. And many more
happy, tranquil days followed.
As time went on, and the months and years came and
went, he was never without friends. Fern did not come
regularly to the barn any more. She was growing up,
and was careful to avoid childish things, like sitting on
a milk stool near a pigpen. But Charlotte’s children and
grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year,
lived in the doorway. Each spring there were new little
spiders hatching out to take the place of the old. Most
of them sailed away, on their balloons. But always two
or three stayed and set up housekeeping in the door-
Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest
of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and
admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his tri-
umph and the miracle of the web. Life in the barn was
very good — night and day, winter and summer, spring
and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place
to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with
the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of
the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats,
the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of
manure, and the glory of everything.
184 Charlotte’s Web
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved
her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new
spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was
in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes
along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte
Wilbur was lovingly raised by a girl
named Fern. But now he’s a barn pig. He’s
bored and lonely — until he meets Char-
lotte, the beautiful grey spider who also lives
in the barn.
Charlotte thinks of a wonderful way to
save Wilbur from a pig’s unhappy fate. Her
clever plan will delight you, in this famous